PHILADELPHIA - Before the Flyers and Rangers tangle in Game 4 here Friday night, who better than to assess the matchup than a former orange-and-black shift-disturber who has become this city's latest target of abuse?
"It's a must-win [for the Flyers] and we should be treating it as a must-win as well," said Dan Carcillo, who drew the ire of the Broad Street crowd on Tuesday when he defiantly celebrated his third-period goal in the Rangers' 4-1 win.
Game 4 will not be the deciding game of this Eastern Conference first-round series, but everyone is aware that if the Rangers steal another game at Wells Fargo Center to take a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series, the Flyers' odds of advancing will not be very good.
"It's the most important game of the year so far," said Rangers coach Alain Vigneault, noting that the Flyers "had the puck so often [in Game 3] that we had to block more shots. I'm hoping that tomorrow we can set a faster pace, go north-south a little bit quicker."
The Rangers skated at Madison Square Garden before taking a train here Thursday and also studied the style of goaltender Steve Mason, who was named as the Flyers' starter, replacing Ray Emery.
"We went through the same preparation as we went through with Emery," Vigneault said. "Scouting report, some video. We know what to expect from him and we know the areas to go after."
Mason, who won 33 games in the regular season, hasn't started a game in two weeks while recovering from an upper-body injury. "We have to throw a lot of pucks on him. He hasn't played in a while," said Derek Dorsett, a former teammate of Mason's with the Columbus Blue Jackets. "We need to test him early, especially in the playoffs, where there's a little more pressure."
Derick Brassard, another former teammate, said Mason "had a good season. We've got to expect him to be good. He plays the puck well, so we have to be careful on the dump-ins."
Dominic Moore said the Rangers have to block out the fact that they could build a 3-1 cushion going into Game 5 at Madison Square Garden on Sunday afternoon and keep a short-term view. "If you worry about bigger things," Moore said, "your focus probably isn't what it needs to be."
But Moore also said it's human nature to peek a little forward, and Brad Richards echoed that thought.
"Win this and we're in a great position," Richards said. "But we have to expect that this is going to be their best game."
Notes & quotes: Dan Girardi will play in his 68th career playoff game and move into the top 10 on the franchise's all-time list . . . The Rangers are 3-for-16 on the power play (ranked eighth in the playoffs). The penalty kill is 7-for-9 (11th in the playoffs) . . . Vigneault said Brian Boyle made an impact in the first three games and joked that the big forward mentioned to him that his play improves in the postseason "quite a few times during the year . . . I told him, 'Why don't you do it a little earlier?' ''