Patrick Marleau gets spotlight as Sharks visit Knights

NHL Hockey

The Vegas Golden Knights can take over sole possession of first place in the West Division and extend their winning streak to a season-high seven games when they face the San Jose Sharks at home Monday.

Yet, those will be just footnotes in what will be a historic game with the Sharks.

San Jose forward Patrick Marleau will pass Gordie Howe for most NHL games played when he takes the ice for his 1,768th game.

“I’ll try to take it all in as much as possible,” the 41-year-old Marleau said Saturday after playing in game 1,767, a 5-2 loss at Minnesota that tied Howe. “The fun part is playing an actual game and all that, but my family’s going to be there to help celebrate, so it’ll be super special having them in the building.”

Marleau was honored with a special video tribute during a first-period break by Minnesota, and Wild players formed a line to congratulate him on his record as they left the ice after the final horn.

“It’s a bit unbelievable,” said Vegas goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, no stranger to milestones himself, after Sunday afternoon’s 5-2 victory at Anaheim gave him his 13th 20-win campaign. “He’s been so consistent throughout his career. To hang in there that long and play that many games is amazing.”

Golden Knights coach Peter DeBoer, who coached Marleau during two of his three stints with the Sharks and was behind the bench on Feb. 2, 2017, when Marleau scored his 500th goal against Vancouver.

“It’s a mind-boggling achievement when you consider how physical the sport is, how fast it is, the toll it takes on your body,” DeBoer said. “I had the luxury of coaching Patty so I recognize what an athlete he is.

“You consider how tough the game was, maybe not in the last five years (when) we’ve gone to more of a speed game which takes its own toll on your body, especially an older guy. But he played in the era you physically took abuse, especially if you were a forward that was going to score goals and go to the net.”

Selected by San Jose with the No. 2 pick in the 1997 NHL Draft, Marleau made his NHL debut 16 days before his 18th birthday on Oct. 1, 1997, against the Edmonton Oilers. He ranks 23rd in league history in goals (566) and points (1,196).

Howe, or Mr. Hockey as it were, held the games-played record since Nov. 26, 1961, when he surpassed Ted Lindsay and became the first player to reach 1,000 games. He died on June 10, 2016, at the age of 88.

“Gordie Howe, Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr … those are the names that anybody who knows anything about the NHL talks about,” said DeBoer. “And if you’re passing any of those guys in any record book for anything, that’s an incredible accomplishment.”

San Jose will bring a five-game losing streak into the contest and trails fourth-place Arizona by five points in the battle for the final playoff spot in the division, but the Sharks have the St. Louis Blues in front of them in the standings as well.

“Monday there’s going to be two separate kind of feelings,” San Jose coach Bob Boughner said. “It’s going to be the honor of being in a game and watching Patty set history, and the other part is, let’s play well with him and be proud of ourselves in the way we play.

“If we play our game, if we play well, we’re going to give ourselves a chance to win. And that’s what we intend to do on Monday for that big night and hopefully cap it off for Patty and his family the right way.”

–Field Level Media

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