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Jostling For Position, Rangers And Red Wings Meet At The Garden

Newcomer Martin St. Louis and the Rangers will look to sweep Detroit on Sunday.

Newcomer Martin St. Louis and the Rangers will look to complete a sweep of Detroit on Sunday.

The New York Rangers host the Detroit Red Wings in an Eastern Conference matchup with plenty on the line this Sunday afternoon.

Opening face-off at Madison Square Garden is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. ET.

With five weeks left on the schedule, picking up points in every matchup has become essential, something the Rangers and Red Wings know all too well.

Entering Sunday’s matchup in Manhattan, both sides currently occupy one of the Eastern Conference’s eight playoff berths, but neither has a particularly firm handle on its postseason ticket.

Detroit (29-21-13, 71pts) currently sits in the second wild card berth, thanks to a tiebreaker over the Columbus Blue Jackets. With the revamped playoff design, the newly-introduced wild card berths are all too easy to win or lose as teams across the conference compete for that extended season.

The Red Wings would prefer to earn one of the three automatic berths assigned to the Atlantic Division, but with four teams (Boston, Montreal, Toronto, Tampa Bay) already ahead of them in that race, the wild card looks the more likely route.

Mike Babcock’s side has gone 3-1-1 since the Olympic break, including picking up a 7-4 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Friday night.

The offensive onslaught – somewhat out of character it has to be said – saw David Legwand earn his first points for the Wings since arriving from the Nashville Predators at the trade deadline last week. Legwand scored a goal and assisted on a pair in that matchup. The Wings will hope he continues in such form, helping the side parry a string of injuries.

Detroit is currently without its top goal scorer and point-getter, Henrik Zetterberg (back). The side is also without Pavel Datsyuk (knee). Back-up netminder Jonas Gustavsson (15-4-3, 2.54 GAA) – enjoying a fine season this year – had been suffering from a groin complaint before returning to the lineup on Friday.

Babcock will hope that the Wings can get past these injuries and score a first win over the Rangers this season.

New York (34-26-4, 72pts) is currently in a slightly better position than the Red Wings, although it’s certainly not time to go out and bet the house of the Rangers making the postseason.

The Rangers currently occupy the third automatic berth in the Metropolitan Division, one-point to the good over the Blue Jackets. Still, there’s no margin for error at this point of the season.

The Rangers have tallied a 2-2-1 record since returning from the Olympic break, including a 4-2 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes this past Friday.

Unlike the Red Wings, Alain Vigneault’s side is at full strength. In fact, it’s at better than full strength. The Rangers traded captain Ryan Callahan this week to the Tampa Bay Lightning, receiving Martin St. Louis in exchange.

St. Louis, a 14-year veteran, tallied 29 goals and 32 assists with Tampa Bay this season, and gives the Rangers another valuable offensive threat. He notched his first point – an assist on a Derek Stepan power play goal – for the Rangers in Friday’s game against the Hurricanes.

With Henrik Lundvist (23-20-4, 2.55 GAA) having occupied goal for the last four games, New York may elect to go with Cam Talbot (11-5-0, 1.75 GAA) in goal on Sunday afternoon. Detroit will in all likelihood counter with Jimmy Howard (13-14-10, 2.64 GAA).

Detroit Red Wings vs. New York Rangers odds for 03/09/2014

The Rangers (-160) opened as the favorite over the Red Wings (+135) on the moneyline.

New York has won three straight against Detroit, two in overtime. to this run, the Red Wings had tallied a 6-1-0 record against the Rangers.

The Rangers have won both games between the sides this season, each decided by one goal.

In this matchup of Original Six sides, Detroit leads the all-time head-to-head 261-211-103-2.

Detroit (-215) is favored to cover the 1.5 goal spread over New York (+182), something that would be bared out by those two one-goal games the sides have already played this season.

Detroit has a -5 goal difference on the season while New York is +6, both of which play into the idea of this being a close game.

The over/under sits at 5.5.

Both sides are more defensively minded, and have scored just six goals in two head-to-head games this season. The total has gone under in four of the last five head-to-head matchups, as well as four of the last five the sides have played at Madison Square Garden.

The under therefore looks the smarter bet.

For a full list of today’s NHL odds, click here.

For updated NHL futures odds, click here.

For a selection of NHL team prop bets, click here.

For a selection of NHL player prop bets, click here.

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