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Stanley Cup Final

Backes focused on Bruins, not history with Blues in Game 3 of Cup Final

Forward played 10 seasons in St. Louis, including five as captain, before signing with Boston as free agent

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

ST. LOUIS -- David Backes says he's back in St. Louis to play a road game in the Stanley Cup Final.

Of course, the Boston Bruins forward knows Game 3 of the Cup Final against the St. Louis Blues at Enterprise Center on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS) is a lot more than that.

Backes played for the Blues for 10 seasons, including the last five as captain, before signing with the Bruins as a free agent July 1, 2016. But that won't be on his mind Saturday with the best-of-7 series tied and the Bruins needing to rebound from a 3-2 overtime loss in Game 2 on Wednesday. 

 

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"I think I'm past the point of the soft and fuzzies," Backes said Friday. "I think we had those moments in my returns prior, regular-season moments where you can really soak that in. But it's all business now."

Actually, the soft and fuzzies didn't last long for Backes when he returned to St. Louis for the first time with the Bruins on Jan. 10, 2017. If there were any doubts about his allegiance, Backes quickly erased them when he fought Blues defenseman Joel Edmundson in the second period after Bruins center David Krejci was shaken up by a hit from St. Louis' Jori Lehtera.

Video: Backes on returning to St. Louis for Cup Final

Edmundson, who was teammates with Backes for one season before he left for Boston, laughed Friday when recalling the incident.

"I guess [Lehtera] pushed [Krejci] into me, so he kind of fell forward," Edmundson said. "It looked bad. I don't know if [Backes] actually saw what happened. He just kind of saw his guy on the ice and, obviously, if you see your guy on the ice bleeding, you've got to go do something. 

"That's just the type of guy he is. He stands up for his teammates."

Edmundson wasn't surprised then and didn't expect anything different from Backes in this series. That included a scuffle in Game 1 after Edmundson caught Backes with a high stick.

"I doesn't matter what team he's on, he's going to play everyone hard," Edmundson said. "It doesn't matter if it's against his best friend, that's just the type of game he plays. That's why he's so valuable to their team. It's obviously exciting for him to come back to St. Louis, but we're just trying to make it as hard as we can on him."

Backes, who has five points (two goals, three assists) in 13 Stanley Cup Playoff games, is playing a different role with Boston than he did with St. Louis, where he had 460 points (206 goals, 254 assists) 727 regular-season games and 27 points (12 goals, 15 assists) in 49 playoff games. The 35-year-old was a healthy scratch for six of Boston's first 10 playoff games, including five straight before returning to the lineup for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Second Round against the Columbus Blue Jackets. 

After returning, the Bruins won eight straight before losing Game 2 to the Blues. 

Skating on Boston's second line with Krejci and Jake DeBrusk, Backes is averaging 9:43 of ice time in the playoffs, which is last on the Bruins. But he's found ways to make an impact during his limited ice time. Using his 6-foot-3, 215-pound frame to his advantage, he had five hits in Game 2, tying defenseman Connor Clifton for most on the Bruins, including one that stunned Blues rookie forward Sammy Blais in the second period.

"I've asked him to play different for this hockey club," Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. "It started the second half of the year. He's bought into that. Doesn't always agree with it, but I think he's a consummate pro for putting the team first."

Selected by the Blues in the second round (No. 62) in the 2003 NHL Draft, Backes acknowledged before the Cup Final began that his first regular-season game back in St. Louis was difficult for him emotionally. But after returning again earlier this season (he missed Boston's game here in 2017-18 because of an injury), he believes he's better equipped to handle those emotions in the Cup Final.

"They're the opponent now," he said. "I have to think of them as such."

But Backes can appreciate as well as anyone the importance of this series to the people of St. Louis. This is the Blues' first Cup Final appearance since 1970, when they were swept by the Bruins. 

Backes once dreamed he'd be the one to lead them here. Now, he's trying to defeat them.

"You know what this means to a place that it's been 49 years since the last Final occurred here and you see how much it means," he said. "But at the same time, we're focused on what our group needs to do in a pivotal Game 3, that we need to respond and react and adjust the way that they did after losing Game 1. We need that similar reaction after losing Game 2."

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