Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Playoffs hurt, are hard... and Buff can't wait to get back

D-man wants to share experience with Jets

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HE'S been away from the Stanley Cup playoffs for back-to-back springs.

That absence has made Winnipeg Jets defenceman Dustin Byfuglien not only want to get back in, but to share it with his teammates who haven't experienced what the post-season is like.

"It's not easy," the Cup winner with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010 said. "It's fun at times. It can get frustrating. And it's a lot of mental work, too. You have to stay on top of that. But the bumps and bruises, those are the things you have to battle through."

Many of those things apply to the regular season, but Byfuglien said there's one item that makes the playoff so different.

"It's do-or-die," he said. "(If you don't want that) you might as well take your five months (off) instead of taking two or three months.

"If you don't win, your summer's not the same. You feel bad. You feel disappointed, like you really let yourself down."

When he was a younger player in the Chicago system and eventually on the Hawks, Byfuglien went through the hunger some of his current teammates feel.

It took him 178 regular-season games over parts of four seasons before he eventually skated in his first NHL playoff game in 2009, an opening-round series against Calgary.

"I remember the tempo of the game," Byfuglien said. "The tempo and the physicality of the game. It was like a whole new level. You just don't know what to expect and it was my first playoff experience.

"I was shocked. But it was fun. If you weren't in your position, you weren't going to play. It was a matter of who's ready to go that night and if you weren't ready, you weren't playing."

Learning how to play in the playoffs isn't necessarily overwhelming, he said.

"It's something you can adapt to pretty quick," Byfuglien said. "It doesn't take long to notice how the other team's going and what you're going to have to do to win. In the game, you always have to adapt to what other teams are doing, whether it's changing systems or something, you've got to be ready to do it on the fly, every shift."

And there is no winning in the playoffs without some pain, he added.

"Blocking shots, taking one somewhere it's going to hurt for a few weeks, and knowing that the next day you've got to be back on the ice playing the same game, that's what I remember," he said.

"And it's against the same team. It's a matter of who's going to fight through it and keep battling. Everyone's wanting to do whatever it takes to win."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 13, 2013 C2

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