ST. LOUIS -- David Backes knows it’s going to be an emotion-filled moment when he takes the ice tonight at the Scottrade Center for the first time since leaving the St. Louis Blues organization, which he bled, sweated and played for over the last 10 years.
He played 727 games in St. Louis, eventually becoming captain and helping the team advance to the Western Conference finals last year. But last July 1 he signed as a free agent with the Bruins, and has become the same kind of emotional and physical leader he was for the Blues.
Still, this return to his adopted home of St. Louis has been on his mind for a while.
“I’m going to try to control myself and my emotions, and live in the moment while enjoying every second of it,” said Backes, who has 11 goals and 21 points in 35 games this season with the Bruins. “There are a few times in your career when you get special nights, and tonight is going to be a special night for me, no question, coming back to a place where I spent 10 years. I’ve got a lot of great memories here. My wife and daughter flew in for the game, a lot of friends will be sitting with them and I just want to enjoy every second of it, be in the moment, not look past it and not take anything for granted.
“At the end of the day I’m going to do everything I can to help my team come out of here with two points against a team that I know is very tough, and has already beaten us once this year. But in the midst of that there will be some special moments throughout, and I want to enjoy every second of it. It starts with morning skate and some of the familiar faces around the rink.”
Backes has already crossed paths with his ex-teammates once before, when St. Louis came into TD Garden and defeated the B's, 4-2, on Nov. 22.
"It’s probably stranger for him than it is for us,” said defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, who succeeded Backes as Blues captain. “We're still here, and we're going on business as usual. Like I said to him yesterday, it just feels like you've been hurt for 40 games now that he's back here. I know for [Backes’ wife] Kelly it's a little bit weird too coming back and seeing everybody, seeing all the friends that they've known for a long time. I think he's adjusting. The way he plays, too, I think he'll go out there and do what he's going to do.
“We know he plays the game pretty honest. He keeps the other team on their heels. He plays the game hard, we know that. Obviously he was the captain here for as long as he was, so you miss that. You miss that emotional side of him being the guy.”
Backes has already shown a high motor and fiery, vocal leadership in just a half-season with the Bruins, and he sets the standard for the rest of the team by playing a physical game and consistently paying the price at the front of the net. The B's are expecting more of what they’ve come to rely on from Backes even as he readies for one of the most emotional games of his career.
“I don’t worry about what he brings to the table” said coach Claude Julien. “I know what he brings to the table every night. I expect him to do that again tonight because he does that on a regular basis. But that’s not denying that this is a big night for him. To come back to the place where he was captain and played for many years, there’s no doubt it’s going to be an emotional night for him. Hopefully we can reward him with a win here.”
So what happens when you put an emotional player in an ultra-emotional moment in his longtime NHL home for the first time? It could be something special.