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Nichushkin banned 6 months for reported failed drug test

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Colorado Avalanche forward Valeri Nichushkin will be unavailable for the remainder of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs after entering stage 3 of the NHL/NHLPA player assistance program, the league announced Monday.

"Under the terms of the joint program, Nichushkin will be suspended without pay for a minimum of six months and then will be eligible to apply for reinstatement," the NHL's statement reads.

Nichushkin recently failed a drug test, sources told Daily Faceoff's Frank Seravalli.

The 29-year-old missed 22 games during the 2023-24 regular season while in the player assistance program.

If he violates the stage 3 treatment plan, Nichushkin will enter stage 4 and be suspended without pay for at least one year, and reinstatement will not be guaranteed.

Nichushkin missed Games 3-7 of the Avalanche's Round 1 series against the Seattle Kraken in 2023 for what was deemed "personal reasons" after an incident at a Seattle hotel. A team doctor found an intoxicated woman in his hotel room the day of Game 3 and called an ambulance to transport her to a hospital, per a Seattle police report. Nichushkin didn't face any criminal charges and apparently would've been cleared to play in Round 2 had the Avs advanced.

The power forward will be sorely missed by the Avalanche. He recorded 53 points in 54 games during the regular season and is tied for the league lead with nine goals in eight games so far this postseason.

"Val, obviously, is struggling with something," Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said following Colorado's 5-1 loss in Game 4 without Nichushkin. "I have two thoughts. Yeah, it sucks for our team. We've gotta turn the page. We gotta go play way better than we did today. ...

"The second one is I've gotten to know Val as a person and I've gotten to know him as one of our teammates and a player and I want what's best for him."

Nichushkin's nameplate was already replaced in the Avs' locker room.

"He made his decisions," teammate Jack Johnson said, per The Denver Post's Corey Masisak. "That's all I'm going to say on that. He made his decisions."

The Avalanche signed Nichushkin to an eight-year, $49-million extension in July 2022.

The Russian winger has played nine NHL seasons, recording 274 points in 512 games. He was drafted 10th overall by Dallas in 2013 and spent four seasons with the Stars before signing with Colorado as a free agent in 2019.

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