When it was mentioned to Rangers' defenseman Raphael Diaz Monday following practice at Rogers Arena that it was surprising there was no parade to salute him in his return to Vancouver, he let out a loud laugh, smiled and said, "I was only here for ten days!"
Technically, Diaz was off by a few days. He was acquired by Vancouver from Montreal on February 3rd, then shipped to the Rangers at the trade deadline on March 5th, so he was a Canuck for a bit more than a month. Though if you factor in two and a half weeks of his tenure in Vancouver were the Winter Olympics in Sochi where he played for his native Switzerland...well, you get the point. He was not a Vancouver Canuck for very long, so his return as a Ranger for Tuesday's contest certainly is not going to rival that of former Canucks coach Alain Vigneault leading New York into action.
"I had just moved into an apartment, and then I was traded again," said Diaz on Monday. "It was a little bit of a strange time here. I was in the lineup immediately, then I was playing forward for the first time in my career (when injured defensemen returned to the Canucks lineup), and then I was traded."
After his trade to New York, Diaz had to wait quite a while for his turn to play. Diaz was scratched nine consecutive games before an injury to John Moore afforded him the opportunity to move into the Rangers' lineup on March 22nd in New Jersey. Tuesday night in Vancouver he will be playing in his sixth straight game.
"I am really comfortable out there, and I am really happy," Diaz told BlueshirtsUnited.com. "I had to wait in the beginning, had to have patience, and worked hard during that time. It's nice to play again, to battle, to compete, in games. I used that time when I first got here to really work hard on my game in practice, and I stayed patient and positive."
Diaz has a goal, an assist and a +5 plus/minus rating in his first five games as a Ranger. He scored an even strength goal Friday night in Calgary and added a power play assist in Sunday's win over Edmonton. His play in all facets of the game, in particular on the power play, has been solid and impressive.
Vigneault has expressed his happiness with Diaz's play quite often recently, but the question now is how long he will remain in the lineup? Moore is closing in on a return--perhaps as early as Thursday's game in Colorado--so where will Diaz fit in? Will he once again be an extra defenseman, or has he done enough to earn a regular spot in the Top Six, and perhaps another d-man comes out of the lineup?
"I don't think about it too much," stated Diaz. "I just work hard, and I always work on my skills to get better and better. The way the coach has believed in me gives me more self confidence. Every shift, every minute I am out there, I enjoy, and I give everything to the team. I just like to help the team win, it's simple."
With his easy-going personality, Diaz has fit in to the Rangers dressing room quickly. He has shown to be a good teammate, and earned the respect of his fellow Rangers for his strong on-ice play, too.
As for facing the Canucks on Tuesday, Diaz is only concerned with helping the team garner another two points; and he says the best way to do that is for the Rangers to stick to their game plan and not worry about what Vancouver does on the ice.
"I think the key is that we play our game," explained the 28 year-old Diaz. "We play good defensively, good first pass out of our zone, get into the offensive flow, play in their end. That's our game. The most important, really important, is to play really good defensively."