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Backes to Fulfill Childhood Dream

by Chris Pinkert / St. Louis Blues
With a freshly signed five-year contract that kicks in next season, it's a safe bet David Backes won't be needing to update his resume anytime soon.

But if he did, it might look pretty impressive these days.

It could start with last January when he was named to the Team USA Men's Ice Hockey Team at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. In February, he was presented with a Silver Medal as a member of that team.

In March, an "A" was stitched onto his Blues jersey, officially designating him as a leader of a young hockey club at the age of 25.

And through 41 games this season, Backes leads the Blues in scoring with 33 points (12 goals, 21 assists) and has a plus-minus rating of +13.

Finally, on Tuesday, he got one more bullet point to add: he'll represent the Blues in the 2011 NHL All-Star Game, which will be held Jan. 30 at the RBC Center in Raleigh, N.C.

Yes, the game has been pretty good to him lately, and Backes will be the first to admit it.

"It hasn't sunk in that I've been chosen," he said shortly after learning from Blues General Manger Doug Armstrong that he had been selected to play in this year's NHL All-Star showcase. "It's a dream come true, obviously."

There's an easy road to the All-Star Game: one that includes pure skill, soft hands and a knack for lighting the lamp with highlight-reel goals and jaw-dropping dekes. But Backes didn't take that route. For him, the road was paved through hard work, dedication, physical play and leadership that make him an invaluable part of his hockey club.

"I watch the other guys show their skills," he said. "I hope I have one-tenth of the skills some of the guys I'll be playing with have."

While he might not bring the flashy element to his year's game, he's still just as deserving as the Sidney Crosbys and Alex Ovechkins of the League. He lets his actions off the ice speak just as loudly as his tenacious play on it. After a good win, he's available to the media for interviews. After a bad loss, he's still there for interviews, often explaining what went wrong and how the team won't make the same mistake twice. It's a quality that's hard to find in such a young player.

"I think he understands there's lots of ways he can contribute to our team's success," Blues Coach Davis Payne said last week. "On each given night something different is required. Is it the big hit? Is it the key goal? Is it a timely penalty kill? I think he understands that and he's comfortable providing anything.

"He's controlling the play. He's done his job defensively. He's chipped in and made some plays and scored some big goals, and then when the game gets into a situation where one play makes the difference, he's out there making it for us."

A difference maker.

There couldn't be a more perfect description of David Backes.

The 26-year old native of Minneapolis, MN is smart enough to model his game after players he's idolized, like recently-retired forward Keith Tkachuk, who appeared in five NHL All-Star Games and was a difference maker on the ice by scoring 538 goals the same way Backes does: through physical play, hard work and determination. It's not flashy, but it gets the job done nonetheless.

"He's been a huge influence as far as being professional and teaching me the game and how to put work in so nobody outworks you," Backes said of Tkachuk, who gave him a place to live when he entered the League as a rookie during the 2006-07 season. "(He taught me) how to live the game 24 hours a day. He's been a huge influence. He played hard every night and I try to emulate that."

This year's All-Star Game features a new format, one that ignores the Western vs. Eastern Conference of seasons past. Instead, the 42 All-Stars will vote on two team captains, who will then hold a fantasy draft to select their teams with no regard to conference. The fantasy draft will be televised live on Jan. 28 at 7 p.m. on VERSUS. The Honda NHL SuperSkills (Jan. 29 at 6 p.m.) and the 2011 NHL All-Star Game (Jan. 30 at 3 p.m.) will round out the weekend.

And while Backes will certainly take the time to enjoy the moment and bask in the spotlight, his main focus is still with the Blues while he tries to lead them back to the postseason.

"I'd like more wins and a home playoff series. I'd erase all these other things and take that instead," he said. "We'll keep working our butts off and try to make that happen."
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