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Diaz adding valuable experience to lineup

by Torie Peterson / Calgary Flames

CALGARY, AB -- The spring of 2014 is one Raphael Diaz will never forget.

Dealt to the New York Rangers from the Vancouver Canucks on Mar. 5, the defencemen ended up getting a lengthy taste of playoff hockey.

The Rangers went all the way to the Stanley Cup Final, defeating the Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, and the Montreal Canadiens on-route to their final series against the Los Angeles Kings.

While Diaz had been through the NHL postseason before, playing in five games for Montreal in 2013, last year was his first experience of getting out of the first round and going through the ups and downs of four series.

That kind of experience, according to head coach Bob Hartley, is priceless.

"You've been there, you know what it is. You know what it is, it's the grind and getting ready and working through the ups and downs. You win a big game you're at the top of the mountain. You lose it seems that you're sliding all the way down and you can't let this happen.

"Unless you've tasted it you don't know, you have to live those moments. Whether you get 25 minutes of ice time or whether you're a healthy scratch it's still a very valuable investment."

As Hartley mentioned, managing one's emotions throughout a seven-game series can be a very challenging task and rookies and players getting their first taste of the playoffs often struggle with that.

While he was limited to four postseason games last year, Diaz has been through rough losses and being on the verge of elimination -- experiences that will help him in the Flames series with the Ducks, which they currently trail 2-0.

"It is game-by-game. I remember last year we were back against Pittsburgh 3-1 in the series and we turned it around," Diaz reminisced. "It was unbelievable what energy was in the group after that. It's never over and you have to win four games to get it done and it was really fun to look at that.

"It just shows that it's playoffs it's not regular season. It's never done until it's done and I think that's the nice part of this sport."

Diaz, who will be paired up with David Schlemko in Game 3, has been sidelined since Apr. 2 with a lower body injury. With three full practices under his belt, the rearguard is looking to ease himself back into the lineup by sticking to the basics.

"Playing simple," he surmised. "Go back, get a good first pass, try to join the rush and have some good shots from the blueline. This is what I'm looking for to keep it simple."

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