CHICAGO, OCT. 25 -- Like a climber about to reach the peak of some mountain previously thought impossible to scale, Wayne Gretzky is near a point few in hockey thought anyone would ever reach.

Gretzky has 1,999 points and will try to reach the 2,000 mark Friday night when he and the Los Angeles Kings play the Winnipeg Jets at Winnipeg Arena.

Gretzky always has understood and never shied away from his status and responsibility as the NHL's most visible star. He and his wife, Janet Jones, appeared on "The Arsenio Hall Show" this week and he said he could not imagine moving from the Los Angeles area.

For one, he likes it. Second, he knows the NHL needs his presence in Southern California to help build the sport as it approaches the year 2000. For that reason, he was hoping to get his 2,000th point Tuesday night in Inglewood, when the first-place Kings beat Calgary.

It is almost certain Gretzky will gain that point in Winnipeg. It is a bit unusual, but the Kings will be playing consecutive games there. So if Gretzky does not score a point Friday, he probably will reach No. 2,000 Sunday.

"I'm hoping to get it over with quickly," Gretzky said.

On Oct. 15, 1989, Gretzky passed Gordie Howe on the NHL scoring list when he recorded his 1,851st point. That occasion was even more dramatic, because he did it in Edmonton, where he had helped bring four Stanley Cups to the Oilers. Because he was passing a legend in Howe and not just a numerical barrier, that event no doubt will prove to be more poignant than the upcoming one.

Gretzky has played 856 regular season NHL games. He has seven goals and 13 assists in nine games this season, which brings his NHL career totals to 684 goals and 1,315 assists.

The speed with which Gretzky has attained these high marks is staggering. Over his first 11 NHL seasons (plus nine games this year), he has averaged 2.34 points per game. He will not be 30 years old until Jan. 26, 1991.

Howe needed 26 seasons to score his 1,850 points.