BOSTON - Claude Julien has not exactly been surprised by what he's seen from David Backes thus far this preseason.
The veteran forward has provided a spark of energy, a touch of grit, and plenty of leadership - both on and off the ice - the exact qualities the Bruins were banking on Backes bringing with him when he arrived from St. Louis over the summer.
"We knew what we were getting there," Julien said following the Bruins' 1-0 overtime win over Philadelphia Saturday night at TD Garden.
"He's a former captain in St. Louis, so we knew we had a good leader. He's been great on the ice, but he's also been great off the ice. He's talking to the young kids and helping them out; I hear him on the bench making sure that he's talking to them all the time and letting them know what's expected.
"I think he's been good that way. He's been good in the dressing room. Good to have a guy like that."
It certainly has been.
In addition to his off-ice intangibles, Backes has also impressed with his flashiness on the ice. Backes, who suited up in the Black & Gold at the Garden for the first time Saturday, has piled up six assists in three games this preseason, his latest helper coming on Ryan Spooner's OT winner against the Flyers.
"He's a great player - all-around, all over the ice," said Brad Marchand. "He's a lot more skilled than I originally knew he was. I haven't seen him often - a couple times a year - but he's really skilled, really good at making quick little plays."
While the line of Backes, Spooner, and David Krejci has been developing nicely over the last week, there is still work to be done. All three are natural centermen and still adjusting to their new responsibilities.
Video: David Backes speaks to reporters postgame
"I think that's a good word, developing, because you've got me, who has played center for quite some time, getting used to the wing, Spoons getting used to the wing, all of us getting used to each other playing together," said Backes.
"There's an evolution. We'll take a little time to get that chemistry…we're learning each other, adapting to positional play and maybe a little bit of a tweak in the system."
With Spooner just 24 years old and playing the wing on a full-time basis for the first time, Backes has become somewhat of a mentor to him throughout camp.
"He's been extremely helpful with me," said Spooner, who tallied his second overtime goal of the preseason. "I've asked him a lot of questions and he's been great. I think for me and him, if I can get the puck to the net for him, he's a big guy, it's going to work."
On Saturday night, it was Backes getting the puck to Spooner. After picking up a rebound along the boards in the defensive zone, Backes slipped a pass over to Spooner, who was all alone in the neutral zone. Spooner was off to the races and ripped one past Steve Mason's glove to seal the win.
"We're communicating well - and with Krech, too - learning new line mates, new teammates…all those things kind of roll into an equation where we need to talk every time we get off the ice," said Backes.
"[Spooner's] got the asset of speed and great skills. I can use my size. And Krech [can use his] creativity and great ability to distribute the puck. We just need to all get on the same page and read off each other.
"When we do that, we have certain moments of brilliance where everything's clicking."
The gritty portion of Backes' game was also on full display against Philly. The 6-foot-3, 221-pounder laid a heavy check on Jakub Voracek along the boards in the Bruins end early in the first period.
Flyers center Sean Couturier took exception to the hit and challenged Backes, who was not interested in turning down the invitation.
"Those things are going to happen in this game," said Backes. "It's one of those things where that's one of the parts of the game you love to be a part of. Credit to them for sticking up for their guys. But we're not backing down."
It is that type of mentality that has appealed even to the Bruins core group of veterans.
"He's been great on the ice, great in the room, a great guy off the ice," said Marchand. "Just a warrior out there. We're very fortunate to have him."
Backes feels just as lucky to be in Boston.
"You see why these guys have won in the past with the great character guys that are left over from the Cup-winning team," he said.
"As a new guy, it feels really good to be welcomed in the way they've welcomed me here. I want to make sure that I make good on my end and be a good contributing member and look out for these guys as well."