The Rangers are one of the most ‘under’ friendly teams in the NHL with a great goalie and suspect offense, an offense that took a hit with Ryan Callahan breaking his ankle. Go ‘under’.

One of the NHL matchups with playoff repercussions on the Thursday night slate sees the Atlanta Thrashers (33-34-12 overall, 16-19-5 away) paying a visit to the New York Rangers (43-32-5 overall, 19-16-4 home) at Madison Square Garden in New York, NY at 7:00 ET.

The Rangers sit in the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with 91 points, two points ahead of the ninth place Carolina Hurricanes, and the Broadway Blueshirts control their own destiny as they can clinch that playoff spot with a win tonight and a win in their season finale at home vs. the Devils. The Thrashers have been eliminated from playoff contention, but they are 7-2 in the last nine head-to-head meetings and would love to play spoiler here.

The best play of all in this contest though appears to be the ‘under’, as the Rangers have been one of the best ‘under’ teams in the league all year and the great goaltending of Henrik Lundqvist is the primary reason they are where they are. They also do not figure to take many chances if they get the lead tonight. Meanwhile, Atlanta has had serious problems finding the back of the net lately.

The NHL latest line from Bookmaker Sportsbook for this contest has the total at 5½ in New York, with the betting odds on the ‘under’ set at -125.

Henrik LundqvistThe ‘under’ is a now a lucrative 45-31, 59.2 percent against the NHL odds in all Rangers games this season, which is what happens when you have a great defense and one of the premier netminders in the league. Lundqvist probably deserves a better fate than his 35-26-5 record, as he ranks sixth in the NHL with his 2.27 GAA and also sixth with his .923 save percentage.

The only reason he does not have a better record in NHL betting is because the Rangers are a middle-of-the-road offensive team, ranking 15th in the NHL with 2.74 goals per game. When you combine that great goaltending with a suspect offense, it is no small wonder that the New York ‘under’ has been a cash cow this season.

It is also noteworthy the Rangers lost Ryan Callahan for the season to a broken ankle in their win over the Boston Bruins. Callahan was one of the team’s best skaters and he had 23 goals and 25 assists in 60 games, so his absence will make the offense that much weaker.

Now these two teams have met three times this season, and after a wild 6-4 Atlanta win in the initial encounter early in the season way back in October, the two meetings in the calendar year 2011 have been more true to form with both contests decided by 3-2 scores, with one of them going to a shootout after just four goals in regulation time plus overtime.

Now the Thrashers have lost three of their last four games against the NHL betting odds, and their only win during this stretch was by a 1-0 score. The problem has been the offense, as Atlanta has scored a grand total of seven goals in the four games, scoring three goals once, two goals once and just one goal in the other two games. The Thrash do not figure to suddenly get well tonight offensively vs. a world-class goaltender like Lundqvist.

If the Rangers get the lead tonight, look for them to shift into a defensive mode with full knowledge of Atlanta’s scoring woes lately and with Lundqvist in net. If the Thrasher get the lead though, New York’s playoff hopes may suddenly be in peril as they may have a hard time coming back in their first game without Callahan.

Both of those scenarios do seem to favor the ‘under’ though, so do not expect more than five goals in this game.

Free NHL Pick:
Thrashers, Rangers ‘under’ 5½ (-125)