February 26, 2024

Capitals’ Evgeny Kuznetsov to enter player assistance program

Washington Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov is entering the NHL/NHLPA player assistance program, the league and union announced Monday.

Kuznetsov will be away from the team indefinitely while he receives care. Under the terms of the program, he can return to the team for practice and then games when cleared by administrators.

The Capitals said earlier Monday that Kuznetsov was not practicing for personal reasons.

After Kuznetsov’s name was part of trade talk last summer, the 31-year-old Russian is in the middle of another disappointing season in Washington with 17 points through 43 games.

Kuznetsov is the fourth player this season announced to be in the joint NHL/NHLPA program after Columbus’ Patrik Laine and Colorado’s Samuel Girard and Valeri Nichushkin.

Girard, who opened up about anxiety and depression leading to alcohol abuse, was away from hockey for about a month. He returned to practice in November and played his first game on New Year’s Eve.

Kuznetsov in 2019 was suspended without pay for three regular-season games by the NHL for “inappropriate conduct,” less than a month after he was banned from playing for Russia for four years because of a positive test for cocaine.