ST. LOUIS -- David Backes walked into Scottrade Center for the first time Tuesday as a visiting player, but it wasn't hit first tango inside the visiting locker room.
"I think I spent one training camp, maybe a week in here," Backes said. "I never showered in that shower, I'm discovering new parts of this building I didn't know were here and I feel like I know a lot of this building."
"It was different coming through this tunnel and having the water bottles on this bench," Backes said. "I've thought about this game for a day and a half now amid some other times throughout the first part of the year. Make sure I don't change on the wrong bench of if I get called for a penalty, go to the right penalty box because I spent a lot of time in one and none in the other. All those things, if that happens, we'll laugh it off. I want to make sure I enjoy every second of this and it would certainly be an exclamation point getting two points out of here and making sure we take care of business, but at the same time, making sure I soak it all in."
Backes and his new team, the Boston Bruins (21-17-5), come to St. Louis to face the Blues (21-14-5) for the first time this season today (7 p.m.; NBCSN, KMOX 1120-AM) and it will be Backes' first visit to St. Louis after leaving via free agency last summer (five-year, $30 million contract). This after spending the first 10 years of his NHL career wearing the Bluenote.
"I'm going to try to control myself and my emotions and live in the moment and enjoy the time," said Backes, who played in 727 regular season games with the Blues. "There are a few times in your career where you get special nights and tonight is going to be special, no question, coming back to a place where I spent 10 years, had a lot of special moments here, have my wife and daughter at the game, a lot of friends they'll be sitting with, and I just want to enjoy it and be in the moment and not look past it and not take anything for granted."At the end of the day I'm going to try to do everything I can to help my team come out of here with two points against a team that I know is very tough and has already beaten us once this year (4-2 in Boston on Nov. 22). In the midst of that, I know there's going to be some special moments throughout. I want to enjoy every second of it and it starts with the morning skate and being back in this building and this room and seeing some of the familiar faces that are around the rink as well."
The Blues maintain that this is business tonight. They've already gone through the gamut of facing Backes once this season, but it'll be a similar situation when Brian Elliott and Troy Brouwer (Calgary) and Steve Ott (Detroit) came back earlier this season for their first visits. Each came away with victories here.
"We have a pretty focused group in here right now because we want to start to build something here," Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. "We feel like this is a crucial point in the season for us, right at the midpoint to start making some ground and playing some consistent hockey and putting some wins together. That's one way that I think we look past playing against one of our old buddies."
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Nevertheless, Blues coach Ken Hitchcock wouldn't mind if Backes, who scored in that first meeting against the Blues, was distracted tonight.
"I'd prefer that he had a skate problem and couldn't get it fixed," Hitchcock joked. "I don't want to wish an injury on a guy, but a skate problem would be OK and they can't find the blades, so he has to sit it out."
Backes replied, "Skates are good and there's plenty of extra steel to be swapped out in between shifts if there's a little sand on the bench or anything like that. We'll do whatever we can to be on the ice as much as possible tonight."
Backes will receive a video tribute at some point tonight, likely in the first period.
"Thirteen years since I was drafted in '03, 10 years in this building, getting dressed every day in the other room, teammates and friends and all those things you don't think about not taking with you when you do go to a new city and re-establishing yourself and making those connections all over again," Backes said. "That's been the biggest changeup. All the great people we met here didn't go with us to Boston and there's great people there and it takes time to reconnect and make those relationships over 10 years, it's not going to be instantaneous to get settled in. Been great in Boston, working every day to get comfortable.
Backes' closest friend, Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, who has housed Backes' wife Kelly and daughter Stella the past few days and will do so throughout the week, said he'd like to get at least a chirp in tonight. By doing so, Pietrangelo said he'd need the score to be, "10-0. We're all excited to see him. Everyone here's excited to see him play. He'll be the first to tell you he's moved on and he's got a new team to worry about. He's been here for a while. I'm sure they still love this city. He's going to go out there and play, he's got a new uniform, he's living and playing for that city. We're not too worried about it, and like I told these guys, if you give him time and space, he'll make you pay for it.
"Him and Kelly have done a lot for this city. It's not just the hockey side of things, it's the way they are as people and the impact they've had, not only on myself, but a lot of people in this community. We'll watch (the video tribute). It's obviously going to be extremely emotional for him and Kelly, but he's got to go out there and do his job and I'm sure we will."
Backes said of Pietrangelo's chirp claim: "He owes me one from the World Cup, if you want to look back at the tape. We've got such a great relationship and have since my time here. Good friend of mine, here in his wedding this (past) summer, over free agency, a guy that ... a little jack-jawing with your good friends on the ice and try to get that edge. There's certainly bragging rights I need to reclaim from them after they beat us in our building. It's time to repay the favor."