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Staal, Girardi Rangers' shutdown duo on defense

Florida entered Wednesday night's game against the Rangers with a sizzling line that included Stephen Weiss and Nathan Horton, so coach John Tortorella countered with defensemen Marc Staal and Dan Girardi - not Michal Rozsival - and the Panthers' duo was kept off the scoresheet.

"When there's a team with some balanced scoring, we'll spread it," Tortorella said. "That was probably one of the hottest lines coming in. We think Danny and Marc are our two best defensemen, defensive-wise, and we put them together and took our chances."

Staal had been paired with Rozsival, and Tortorella said he was concerned about how Rozsival, who had been playing well, would fare with rookie Michael Del Zotto.

"We don't want to destroy anything as far as his mind-set,'' he said. "I don't think he [Rozsival] played that well in the first period [against Florida], but I thought he came on."

Staal was back with Rozsival last night against the Islanders, and Girardi and Del Zotto were on the ice for Frans Nielsen's first-period goal after a neutral-zone mix-up.

Referee flies solo

Stephen Walkom served as the sole on-ice referee for the first period and the first few minutes of the second along with linesmen Brian Murphy and Jean Morin. Dean Morton was delayed by weather-related travel issues.

Walkom called six penalties - three on Sean Avery - in the first period. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last game at Madison Square Garden with only one referee was March 21, 2000, against Florida.

Voros, Christensen out

Rangers LW Aaron Voros was a healthy scratch for the 11th straight game . . . C Erik Christensen sat for the fourth time in the last seven.

New York Sports