The latest Capitals player Kuznetsov to receive sponsorship from the NHL/NHLPA Player Assistance Program

Washington Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov has entered the NHL/NHLPA Player Assistance Program, and the team is now preparing to continue the season without him.

Kuznetsov will be absent from the team indefinitely while receiving care. Under the terms of the program, he can return to the team for practices and then games when approved by officials.

“There’s not a lot of background information on what we know,” coach Spencer Carberry said after the Capitals’ morning skate on Tuesday in Arlington, Virginia. “There’s not a lot of background information they share with us, other than the fact that he’s on the show. So, for us, as an organisation, staff and players, it’s just a matter of supporting him and his family as he gets the help he needs.”

Kuznetsov missed training on Monday for reasons the team said were personal. Due to confidentiality rules, teams are not told the details of a player’s absence.

“First and foremost, we’re thinking about Kuz and hope he’s healthy and improving,” veteran winger TJ O’Shea said. “Anytime we lose one of those key players in our group, especially these days with one of the players who was here when we had our cup campaign, it’s a big hole to fill.”

Kuznetsov is the fourth player this season to announce his participation in the joint NHL/NHLPA program after Columbus’ Patrik Laine, Colorado’s Samuel Girard and Valery Nykushkin.

Girard, who has spoken openly about anxiety and depression that led to alcohol abuse, has been away from hockey for about a month. He returned to training in November and played his first game on New Year’s Eve.

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Kuznetsov was the Capitals’ leading scorer in the 2018 Stanley Cup win, and has had many ups and downs since then.

In 2019, he 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 for testing positive for cocaine.

He was close to getting a point a game in 2021-22, then struggled again in 2022-23. After Kuznetsov’s name once again became part of the trade conversation last summer, the 31-year-old Russian is in the midst of another disappointing season in Washington with 17 points through 43 games.

But his absence leaves a void in the middle of the ice.

“There’s not one person who can step in and do what Causey does,” O’Shea said. “It’s going to come from a combination. It’s going to be important for our midfielders as a whole to help out on those faceoffs, help with those (killing penalties), power play minutes, to help us down the middle and the rest of us.” To make it easier on our quarterbacks because we know they have a little bit more load than they might normally have.

The Capitals recalled 31-year-old Michael Sgarbossa from Hershey from the American Hockey League to replace Kuznetsov. Carberry said he spoke with players to discuss Kuznetsov’s departure, although what he could say was limited.

“There’s not much I can share, other than what’s going on with your teammate, your brother, or someone in our family,” Carberry said. “There are a lot of people who are worried about him and his family, and that’s where a lot of the conversations and thoughts have gone.”

It is unclear how long Kuznetsov might be out. He is in the penultimate season of an eight-year, $62.4 million American contract.

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