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Marleau to play 1,500th game with Sharks against Maple Leafs

Forward reaches milestone facing his only other NHL team

by Heather Engel / Independent Correspondent

Patrick Marleau admitted the timing of it all is a bit strange.

The forward will play his 1,500th regular-season game as a member of the San Jose Sharks on Friday against his only other NHL team.

"It's kind of weird how things happen sometimes," Marleau said about the game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Arena (7 p.m. ET; SN1, TVAS, NBCSCA, NHL.TV). "It'll be good. It'll be exciting to see those guys and line up and battle against them, compete against them. It'll be fun."

Marleau will become the seventh NHL player with 1,500 games with one franchise, joining Gordie Howe (Detroit Red Wings, 1,687), Nicklas Lidstrom (Red Wings, 1,564), Alex Delvecchio (Red Wings, 1,550), Shane Doan (Winnipeg Jets/Arizona Coyotes, 1,540), Ray Bourque (Boston Bruins, 1,518) and Steve Yzerman (Red Wings, 1,514).

Selected by the Sharks with the No. 2 pick in the 1997 NHL Draft, Marleau played 1,493 games for San Jose before signing a three-year, $18.75 million contract with the Maple Leafs as an unrestricted free agent July 2, 2017. After playing 164 games in two seasons with Toronto, the 40-year-old was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes on June 22. The Hurricanes bought out the final season of Marleau's contract June 27, and he signed a one-year contract to return to the Sharks on Oct. 9.

Video: CGY@SJS: Crowd goes wild as Sharks celebrate Marleau

One of the benefits for the Maple Leafs in trading Marleau was creating room under the NHL salary cap to sign restricted free agent forward Mitchell Marner, who with teammate Auston Matthews developed a strong relationship with Marleau and his family. Marner agreed to a six-year, $65.358 million contract Sept. 13.

"No better person to do it for, that's for sure," Marleau said of Marner. "That makes it easy. Those guys are great people, great players and deserve every penny they get."

Marleau has given the Sharks good value as well. One day after signing, he scored two goals against the Chicago Blackhawks, and he has six points (two goals, four assists) in six games.

"He's just been a stabilizer for us," San Jose coach Peter DeBoer said. "We were stumbling around a little bit through four games and he stabilized our line there with [Logan] Couture.

"He can still skate, he can still create offense, he plays the right way. He's a great example for young guys on how to how to play the right way and play winning hockey. He's meant a lot in a lot of different areas."

Matthews said he's excited to see Marleau, but when the game starts he'll become just another opponent.

"I might send him a FaceTime later today just to catch up with him," Matthews said Thursday. "But when the puck drops there's no friends out there and I know that's the way he approaches it as well. He's a competitor."

Video: SJS@BUF: Vlasic nets Marleau's brilliant feed

Marner is happy that Marleau has been able to continue his NHL career for a 22nd season.

"I remember saying he deserved to play on an NHL team," Marner said. "He still has all the skill. So it's great see him do his stuff there and contributing to their wins. I don't think you really can get under his skin, he's pretty calm out there, but I'll be trying to talk to him quite a bit I'm sure, laughing at him across the ice. But it will be great seeing him."

Though it will be a homecoming of sorts for Marleau in Toronto, it's been like old times for him in San Jose.

"It's been great. It's been a lot of fun," Marleau said. "It's been a little bit weird but at the same time comfortable and just each day getting a little bit more comfortable."

Teammates for 12 seasons before Marleau's departure, center Joe Thornton, who was the No. 1 pick by the Boston Bruins in the 1997 Draft, said it was weird seeing Marleau in Maple Leafs blue and white the past two seasons. But now that Marleau is back, Thornton said he'll be happy to celebrate Marleau's milestone with him.

"It's great," Thornton said. "Puts a smile on my face. Once he went to Toronto, I thought, who knows if we're ever going to cross paths to play with each other. I knew we would always stay in touch, but to play with each other? I didn't know if that would happen or not. But I'm happy it's happened."

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