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Marleau trying to 'take it all in' on verge of NHL games played record

Sharks forward can pass Howe, set mark with No. 1,768 against Golden Knights @NHLdotcom

Patrick Marleau is set to pass Gordie Howe for the most NHL games played when the San Jose Sharks forward plays No. 1,768 at the Vegas Golden Knights on Monday (10 p.m. ET; NHLN, ATTSN-RM, NBCSCA, NHL.TV).

"[My emotions] are all over the place," Marleau said after the Sharks morning skate. "You don't really know how you're supposed to feel. There's a game to be played tonight, for sure, and there's a lot of other things going on at the same time. So trying to balance both of those things and make sure that I'm ready to play when the puck drops but also take it all in at the same time." 

Marleau said his wife, Christina, his four sons, and family members will be in Las Vegas for the game, but he's not sure what else to expect.

"It's kind of probably better that I don't know what's going to happen or what's going to go on," the 41-year-old said. "That way … I'll probably end up learning a little bit more as the day goes on, but yeah, I'm just trying to keep things simple and focus. But so far, just walking through the dressing room, there's a lot of great things I've seen so far with T-shirts and sweaters. I know there's been a lot of work gone into this, this day on a lot of people's parts, and very thankful for all the work that's been done. 

Marleau is in his 23rd NHL season and has played 1,595 games in 21 seasons for the Sharks, including 44 this season to extend his streak of consecutive regular-season games to 898, fourth-longest in NHL history.

"This is more than just a personal milestone, I think," Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson said. "I think this is a statement to each and every player that has played this game at any point in time. This is an accomplishment that I don't think anyone saw coming, and it's one that's been creeping up on us fast. You know, we still haven't been able to grasp or realize that it's actually going to happen until now. I think that this is not only a historic moment for Patty and this organization, but I think it's a historic for the entire League and every player that has played this game with or against him or prior to his time.

Marleau, a native of Aneroid, Saskatchewan, also played 164 games in two seasons for the Toronto Maple Leafs (2017-19) and eight games for the Pittsburgh Penguins last season.

Although Marleau said he's looking forward to moving past Monday, he's grateful for all the support he's received during his run to the record. 

"Yeah, there's a certain part where you just, you know, try and get through it," Marleau said. "With knowing how to feel and all the right feelings, I've kind of asked people, 'I don't know what I should be thinking or feeling right now.' And basically, whatever you're thinking or feeling, that's the way things are supposed to be, so I'm just trying to embrace it and take it all in. But I just love being able to thank the people that have supported me along the way. I always get kind of choked up and emotional when it comes to people reaching out and texts and talking to people about how far it's been or how long I've come, how many games I've played. But you don't get this far without help and support, and I'm very grateful for all that."

Marleau said Gordie's son, Mark Howe, the Howe family, and Wayne Gretzky have reached out, among others. 

"Very humbling, and I'm very grateful for all the support," Marleau said. 

Howe has held the NHL record for regular-season games played since Nov. 26, 1961, when he surpassed Ted Lindsay and became the first player to reach 1,000 games. Howe played 1,687 games in 25 seasons with the Detroit Red Wings before retiring in 1971.

After coming out of retirement in 1973 to play 419 games in six seasons in the World Hockey Association for Houston and New England, Howe returned to the NHL for one season after New England joined the NHL as the Hartford Whalers in 1979. Howe played 80 games for the Whalers in 1979-80 before retiring again.

A native of Floral, Saskatchewan, Howe played his final regular-season game against the Red Wings on April 6, 1980, at 52 years old. He was 88 when he died June 10, 2016.

Howe is second in NHL history with 801 goals (Wayne Gretzky, 894) and fourth in points with 1,850. Marleau is 23rd in goals (566) and 50th in points (1,196).

"It's something that I'm pretty proud of, being from Saskatchewan and actually Gordie being from Saskatchewan, so I think that's a pretty cool connection," Marleau said. "That was part of the message that Mark gave to me yesterday was that that's kind of fitting that I am from Saskatchewan and that's where Gordie was from, that he'd be very proud that I'm breaking the record tonight being from a small town, a small farm boy from Saskatchewan."

Selected by San Jose with the No. 2 pick in the 1997 NHL Draft, Marleau made his NHL debut 16 days after his 18th birthday, Oct. 1, 1997, against the Edmonton Oilers. He is the youngest player to make his NHL debut since Hy Buller played at 17 years, 267 days with the Red Wings on Dec. 7, 1943.

After playing 1,493 games in 19 seasons with the Sharks, Marleau signed a three-year contract with the Maple Leafs as an unrestricted free agent July 2, 2017. Marleau was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes on June 22, 2019, and had the final season of his contact bought out without playing a game for them.

Marleau returned to San Jose to play 58 games last season before being traded to Pittsburgh on Feb. 24, 2020. He became an unrestricted free agent and signed a one-year contract with the Sharks on Oct. 13.

"A little unbelievable. He's been so consistent throughout his career," Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury said Sunday. "Didn't get hurt, didn't get hurt for long periods of time. Every year, he's always been a very good player. To hang in there that long and play every game is amazing. He's very respected around the League. I don't know him much, but he was always respectful and very nice. I think it's very deserving to get the praise he's getting to beat that milestone."

Marleau has played in four decades: 196 games in the 1990s, 716 in the 2000s, 782 in the 2010s and 73 in the 2020s. Maple Leafs forward Joe Thornton (173 games) and Washington Capitals defenseman Zdeno Chara (119) are the other active players to play in the NHL during the 1990s.

Howe is the only player in to play in the NHL in five decades: 191 games in the 1940s, 690 in the 1950s, 701 in the 1960s, 139 in the 1970s and 46 in the 1980s.

"It's a privilege to have said that you played with 'Patty' Marleau and had him as a teammate and got to know him as a person," Karlsson said. "Even though he's been around for a very long time and he's played with a lot of guys, not a lot of people can say that, and for that, I think each and every one that got that opportunity is extremely grateful for it, because if you have played this game or been really close around this game, you do realize how many years and how many games and how much it takes in order for someone to accomplish what he's about to accomplish, and that itself just gives you the respect, I think, from everybody, whether you've been his teammate or you've played against him or you played before him, I think, even." columnist Nicholas J. Cotsonika, staff writers Tom Gulitti and Tracey Myers, and independent correspondent Danny Webster contributed to this report

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