Patrick Marleau passed Gordie Howe for most NHL games played Monday, and though his friend Joe Thornton said he's thrilled for the San Jose Sharks forward, he has no aspirations to challenge the record himself.

"I am strictly one day at a time and I've been in that mode for five years," the Toronto Maple Leafs forward told this weekend, breaking into laughter. "It's a good mindset to have.

"Having said that, it's really hard to believe 'Patty' is going to pass Gordie Howe. It's really cool."

Marleau played No. 1,768 to pass Howe when the Sharks visited the Vegas Golden Knights.

Thornton is second among active players and sixth in NHL history with 1,669 regular-season games, 99 behind Marleau, and said the two have been in regular contact during Marleau's march toward hockey history.

"Whenever he passes someone in games played, I've always made it a point to fire him a text," Thornton said. "He's going to be one of those guys throughout my lifetime that I'm always going to check on to make sure everything's going good. That's a good friend to have.

"Patty and I met each other when we played on the Team Canada Under-18 team. I think I was 17 at the time. So we've had a friendship for 24 years. There are not too many friendships that have lasted that long. It makes this record even more special."

Months after representing Canada together, the forwards were the top two picks in the 1997 NHL Draft,