Winter Games Athletes
Backes was just coming into his own four years ago when he was selected to represent Team USA at the Vancouver Games. Now, the Minnesota native will be looked upon to be one of the team's leaders in Sochi. Backes was coming off a 31-goal season for the St. Louis Blues in 2008-09 and was considered one of the league's rising stars heading into the 2010 Olympics. Backes now is in his third full season as captain for a Blues team that is among the top contenders in the Western Conference. After totaling six goals in the 2013 lockout-shortened regular season, he matched that total just seven games into this campaign and is making a run at exceeding his career high of 31, since matched in 2010-11. Backes, who has 20 goals and 22 assists this season, had one goal and two assists in six games while helping the U.S. win the silver medal in Vancouver. He also competed in the world championships from 2007-09, totaling two goals and seven assists in 22 games. Backes, who will be joined by Blues teammates T.J. Oshie and Kevin Shattenkirk on Team USA, is a solid two-way player who was a finalist for the Selke Trophy as the league's top defensive forward in 2011-12. There's a good chance he centers Team USA's third line in Sochi while also seeing ice time as a penalty killer.