BOSTON - This wasn't supposed to happen.
David Backes had hoped to be one of those rare athletes that spends his entire career with one organization. But when his contract with the Blues expired at the end of June, just a month after his club reached the Western Conference Final for the first time in 15 years, Backes made a tough business decision and signed a five-year, $30 million deal with the Bruins.
So tonight, when the Blues battle the Boston Bruins at 6 p.m. CT at TD Garden (FSMW, NBCSN, KMOX), it's going to be a little strange seeing Backes in black and yellow instead of his usual blue and gold.
OK, let's be honest: it's going to be downright odd.
"This is your captain. This is going to be emotional for everybody," Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock said of going against Backes for the first time. "I just don't want to see us take a backseat because knowing David, he's coming to compete like heck, and knowing our players, we're going to compete like heck against him. But this is a guy who has been around for a long time, and we've had a great relationship for a number of years. It's going to be emotional for everybody."
Video: Backes, Blues on the first meeting
"It's going to be fun," added defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. "He's someone we know plays with a lot of passion, and I think he's going to have something to prove. In that respect, we have to be careful because he can be deadly, both on the scoresheet and with how physical he can play."
Backes spent nearly a decade with the Blues, five of which were as the team's captain. He ranks fifth on the all-time franchise games played list with 727 games, sixth in points with 460 and fifth in penalty minutes (969).
These days, he's fitting in pretty well with Boston. He dealt with elbow surgery earlier this season but has scored three goals and four assists in 13 games this season and is 17th in the League with a plus-9 rating.
Despite finding a new home about 1,200 miles east of the one he's known for his entire career, Backes told NHL.com he's looking forward to tonight's game against his former teammates.
"It's an opportunity to play against a lot of good friends," Backes said. "I know probably everybody on that roster except one guy in a very close-knit way. It's going to be emotional, but I plan to just be in the moment and soak it all in and compete my butt off and try to help my team win the game, and let the rest be written as it may."
"(St. Louis) is a place where we spent 10 years of our lives, really grew as people, as a married couple, had our daughter there," Backes added. "It's still a special place in our hearts."
Video: Reaves meets an old friend in Boston