SAN JOSE - David Backes will lace up the skates for his 600th career game tonight when the Blues meet the San Jose Sharks at 9:30 p.m. (FSMW, KMOX 1120 AM).
It seems like just yesterday Backes made his Blues debut in Pittsburgh.
On Dec. 19, 2006, shortly after stepping onto the ice for the first time, Backes was rocked by a big hit from Penguins defenseman Alain Nasreddine. In typical Backes fashion though, the 22-year-old forward got up, blocked a Penguins clearing attempt and got the puck to Radek Dvorak, who passed to Doug Weight, who scored and gave the Blues a 1-0 lead.
“It’s not the way you draw it up, but it was a successful first shift,” Backes said. “The more proud part is we won the game. The team hadn’t a ton of success before that.”
Fast forward to today, 599 games later, and Backes is not only one of the team’s top forwards, but he’s also their captain and leader.
“I think the thing that has evolved is he was an emotional train when he came into the League,” Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock said. “He was a guy that once he was on the tracks, he didn’t get off the tracks. He was very physical, very emotional. I think he’s really become a strong positional player right now. His game has matured.
“The part I like about him the best he carries a real team heart,” Hitchcock added. “He carries himself in the way you’d really like a captain to carry himself. He thinks of others ahead of himself, both on and off the ice, and I think that’s what you like a captain.”
Backes will become the 10th player to play 600 games in the Blues uniform. He passes Chris Pronger (598) and in the next 15 games, will pass names such as Larry Patey (603), Al MacInnis (613), Barclay Plager (614) and Bob Plager (615).
“It’s something that’s very humbling,” Backes said. “I’m proud to be at 600 games and I think doing it all with one organization is something extra special as well. It’s exciting, but once the puck drops, we’re looking for two points and we’ll forget about the number of games I’ve played.”
FACING THE SHARKS
Tonight’s game will be the first meeting between the teams this season. The Blues are 5-1-0 in their last six games, while the Sharks have won eight of their last nine and currently sit second in the Pacific Division with 40 points.
Joe Thornton and Logan Couture lead the Sharks in scoring with 28 points each. Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski are close behind with 27 points each.
San Jose has won seven straight games on home-ice.
“It’s two teams that play big, heavy games,” Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. “There’s a lot of checking involved and obviously, with the first round playoffs a couple years ago, I think that’s what established it. They had our number last year and I think this is a chance for us to get back on the right side of things and really just prove that we can hang with these guys in the West. San Jose is a team that’s there every year, and they’ve been there for a little while. We have to prove we’re one of those teams as well.”
Said Hitchcock, “They play the same way (as we do), they exit the same way, they enter the same way, they play the same way in the offense zone. Their team is playing with a lot of speed and a lot of tempo right now… They’re good when they play on their toes and we’re good when we play on our toes.
“Whoever gets to that element of their game is probably going to end up winning.”
Alex Pietrangelo has a six-game point streak (one goal, five assists), which is the longest active streak among defenseman.
Kevin Shattenkirk has 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in December, which leads all defensemen and is third in the League overall.
Barret Jackman’s plus-10 rating since Dec. 6 is the best in the League. He’s been a plus-player in six straight games.
The Blues are averaging four goals per game for the month of December, which is up from the 2.63 goals per game the club averaged through November.
Jake Allen will start in goal tonight.
Carl Gunnarsson is skating his own in St. Louis as he recovers from an upper-body injury.
Petteri Lindbohm was assigned to the Chicago Wolves on Friday.