Capitals’ Kuznetsov cleared to practice following month in player assistance program

Washington Capitals centre Evgeny Kuznetsov (92) in the second period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2024, in Denver. (David Zalubowski/AP)

NEW YORK — Washington Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov was cleared Saturday to resume practicing while entering the follow-up care phase of the NHL/NHLPA player assistance program.

Kuznetsov has missed 12 games since entering the program on Feb. 6. His return to play will be determined by program administrators.

It’s unclear why the 31-year-old Kuznetsov entered the program. Teams are not told details of a player’s absence because of confidentiality rules.

Kuznetsov, the Capitals’ leading scorer on their 2018 Stanley Cup run, has endured many ups and downs since. He’s struggled in production this season with six goals and 17 points through 43 games.

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

He was nearly a point-a-game player in 2021-22, then struggled again in 2022-23.

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