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Blues still fond of David Backes

St. Louis goes head-to-head against former captain, Bruins on Tuesday

by Louie Korac / Correspondent

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Right wing David Backes certainly circled the date last summer when the NHL schedule was released.

When the St. Louis Blues play the Boston Bruins at TD Garden on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, NESN, FS-MW, NHL.TV), this won't be just your average run-of-the-mill encounter with a former teammate that barely knew St. Louis.

Backes was a staple of Blues hockey for the past 10 seasons, including the final five as captain. The Blues drafted Backes in the second round (No. 62) of the 2003 NHL Draft; he was one of theirs. The Blues groomed him and helped make Backes the NHL leader he is today. St. Louis was Backes' second home, where his daughter, Stella, was born.

But on July 1, when the Blues said goodbye by not resigning their 6-foot-3, 221-pound heart-and-soul leader, Backes moved on to Boston, and for the first time, he will be on the other end of the ice looking at the only NHL jersey team he played for prior to this season.

Video: CBJ@BOS: Backes lights the lamp off feed from Krejci

Backes signed a five-year, $30 million contract with the Bruins and as far as the Blues were concerned, left behind 727 NHL regular season games, 206 goals, 254 assists and six appearances in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, including a run to the Western Conference Final last season. Backes' emotional interview after Game 6 painted a clear picture of a veteran who knew he likely had played his final game with St. Louis.

The Blues have had their share of games against former teammates this season, having faced Brian Elliott and Troy Brouwer of the Calgary Flames and Steve Ott of the Detroit Red Wings.

This is an entirely different level, and the Blues, who will welcome Backes back to St. Louis Jan. 10, realize the significance.

"This is way different. This is your captain," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said after practice Monday. "So this is going to be emotional for everybody. I just don't want to see us take any backseat because knowing David, he's going to compete like heck and knowing our players, we're going to compete like heck against him. But it is different. This is a guy that's been around for a long time. We have had a great relationship for a number of years, so this is going to be a little emotional for everybody."

Backes attended Alex Pietrangelo's wedding this past summer, and it was Pietrangelo who replaced Backes as Blues captain. The two remain close friends, and will get the chance to reminisce on Monday night when Backes, his wife Kelly and daughter welcome a number of former teammates to their home for dinner.

Video: BOS@CBJ: Backes records his first goal with Bruins

Backes, the Blues' 20th captain, has been a phone call away for Pietrangelo when adversity has come up for the first-year captain.

"It's obviously for myself and a lot of guys the opportunity for us to see him for the first time," Pietrangelo said. "We're going to go to his place tonight and catch up with someone who had a big impact on a lot of us. Obviously for me, (he's) still one of my close friends. It's an opportunity to see his wife, him and his baby. It's a great opportunity.

"He's been great for me. He's always answered my phone calls. A friend."

The Blues didn't fare so well (a 4-1 loss to the Flames and 2-1 shootout loss to the Red Wings) in their two previous games against former teammates. With a three-game winning streak on the line, they're hoping to continue to improve on the success of last week at the expense of a close friend.

"It's going to be fun," Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. "I think we know he's someone who plays with a lot of passion and I think he's going to feel like he has something to prove [Tuesday]. In that respect, we've got to be careful because he can be deadly both on the scoresheet and obviously with how physical he can play. It's probably going to be a little strange to play against us and it'll be a little weird for us to see him in different colors."

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