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Avs' Nichushkin cleared by NHL/NHLPA Player Assistance Program to resume practicing

Valeri Nichushkin Colorado Avalanche Valeri Nichushkin - The Canadian Press

DENVER (AP) — Valeri Nichushkin has been cleared to resume practicing with the Colorado Avalanche after receiving care from the player assistance program.

The NHL and NHL Players’ Association announced Monday that Nichushkin has entered the follow-up care phase. He has not yet been cleared to resume playing in games.

The 28-year-old Russian entered the joint league-union program in mid-January. He was the second Colorado player to take part in it this season after teammate Samuel Girard, who resumed playing roughly five weeks after entering it.

Washington’s Evgeny Kuznetsov and Columbus’ Patrik Laine remain in the program.

Nichushkin has 22 goals and 20 assists in 40 games this season. He is two games away from reaching 500 regular-season contests for his career.

Nichushkin was away from the team in the playoffs last season for what the team explained at the time were personal reasons. He missed the final five postseason games of a first-round loss to Seattle.

His absence started after officers responded to a crisis call at the Four Seasons Hotel in Seattle the afternoon before Game 3 on April 22. A 28-year-old woman was in an ambulance when officers arrived, and medics were told to speak with an Avalanche team physician to gather more details.

The report, obtained at the time from the Seattle Police Department by The Associated Press, said the Avalanche physician told officers that team employees found the woman when they were checking in on Nichushkin. The physician told officers the woman appeared to be heavily intoxicated — too intoxicated to have left the hotel “in a ride share or cab service,” and requested EMS assistance.

When approached in the ambulance by officers, the woman stated she was from Russia but born in Ukraine. She was transported to Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle, according to the report.

In September, Nichushkin deflected questions about his absence from the playoff series. He said he and the team both decided for him to be away for the remainder of the playoff series against the Kraken. Colorado lost in seven games.