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Devils practice getting in line

by Eric Marin / New Jersey Devils
Mike Mottau says players must be more alert at the bench.
With four bench minors for too many men on the ice in their first seven games, Jacques Lemaire and the Devils spent part of Monday's practice working on line changes.

Lemaire hopes it pays quick dividends, as his club has already been burned twice: at Tampa Bay on Oct. 8, and Friday versus Atlanta. The Devils face the Rangers at MSG on Thursday, then travel to Pittsburgh for Saturday's matchup with the Penguins.

"It’s guys coming to the bench," Lemaire said. "Our mind is somewhere else for a second and then we feel our guy’s not there, there’s a guy missing, he jumps (over the boards). He doesn’t know why he jumps, but he jumps."

Lemaire said every team tries to gain an edge. Players hop over the boards early to get a headstart on the man they're taking off the ice. But it becomes a penalty when the puck winds up caught in the middle.

"It’s a fine line when to jump on and when the guy comes in," Lemaire said. "If the puck’s not there, with the usual change, you never have a problem. Both sides. (But) you cannot get in the play. There’s a rush and your man is changing, you cannot jump and stop the other guy or get in his way or things like that. That is too many men on the ice. You’re playing and the other guy is still on."

Defenseman Mike Mottau said the number of too many men penalties has been disappointing, but can be remedied.

"It’s definitely something that can be easily fixed," Mottau said. "Guys can be more alert on the bench, and the guy that’s changing can be more alert as to what’s going on. It’s really a mental letdown and it’s unacceptable, actually, to have this many too many men so early in the season."

Monday's practice reviewed when skaters can look for a line change.

"It gives you an idea that the far forward has to stay, or even the far defenseman, depending on where the opposing forwards are," Mottau said. "It’s definitely a thing that you can overthink, as well. You don’t want to put the guy coming on the ice in a bad situation and vice versa. Guys are cheating to get on the ice, and guys are staying too long sometimes. It’s something that has to be tightened up because it’s come back to bite us in a few games here."

• Swedish rookie Niclas Bergfors registered a game-high eight shots in Saturday's 2-0 win over Carolina, but has yet to score a goal this season. As long as he continues to get scoring chances, said Lemaire, the goals will follow.

"You start to score, you get a lucky goal here and you build up more confidence and you’re going to shoot the puck," said Lemaire, adding that the coaching staff will be working with Bergfors to improve his shot. "You’ll get another one and it just snowballs. But he’s got to start somewhere. I know he doesn’t have a big shot right now, which makes it a little more difficult, but it’s going to come.

"When a player gets chances, that’s all that I want. I know the goals will come. The problem is if you don’t get chances. How can you score?"

• Matt Halischuk was scheduled to visit a dentist today after taking a high-stick in the face from Carolina's Rod Brind'Amour on Saturday.

"My lip's a little better today, but I'm going in to check my teeth out and get a few x-rays of my teeth," he said.

• Defenseman Cory Murphy was placed on waivers.

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