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NHL suspends Evgeny Kuznetsov 3 games after positive cocaine test

Washington Capitals forward Evgeny Kuznetsov has been 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.

The NHL announced its punishment Saturday, saying it followed a meeting in New York on Monday with Commissioner Gary Bettman, Kuznetsov and union representatives. The league did not elaborate on its decision. Kuznetsov will not appeal.

“I have decided to accept the NHL’s suspension today. I am once again sorry that I have disappointed my family, my teammates, and the Capitals organization and fans,” he said in a statement issued by the Capitals. “I promise to do everything in my power to win you back with my actions both on and off the ice.

“I also understand that I am fortunate to have an opportunity to make things right. Thanks to the Capitals, NHL, and NHLPA, I have taken many steps in the right direction and I’m confident that I will continue on that path.”

Kuznetsov, a key part of Washington’s run to the Stanley Cup in 2018, tested positive while playing for Russia at the world championship in May. He faced allegations of drug use at the world championship after a video posted on social media showed him near a table with lines of white powder and American dollar bills.

When that four-year ban was announced by the International Ice Hockey Federation, the NHL said Kuznetsov would undergo regular drug testing and he voluntarily entered the NHL/NHLPA Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program. Teammates expressed support for Kuznetsov as the Capitals opened camp this week.

“He realizes he makes mistake,” captain and fellow Russian Alex Ovechkin said. “Sometimes the best thing is just support him and be at his side.”

Washington visits defending champion St. Louis in the season opener Oct. 2.

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