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Avalanche star Valeri Nichushkin suspended for 6 months hours before playoff game

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The Colorado Avalanche will be without winger Valeri Nichushkin for the Stanley Cup Playoffs and for several months as he was placed in Stage 3 of the NHL/NHLPA Assistance Program.

The announcement came hours before the Avalanche took on the Dallas Stars in Game 4 of their Western Conference semifinals matchup. It’s the second time this season he’s been in the program, and Stage 3 means he violated the terms of the program.

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Valeri Nichushkin #13 of the Colorado Avalanche skates in warmups ahead of Game Three of the Second Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Dallas Stars  at Ball Arena on May 11, 2024 in Denver, Colorado. ( Ashley Potts/NHLI via Getty Images)

“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,” a joint statement read.

He was leading the team with nine playoff goals.

Nichushkin was out for nearly two months earlier in the season to receive care from the program for issues that were not disclosed. It came on the heels of missing the final five games of a playoff exit last season for what the team called personal reasons.

During the Avalanche’s playoff series against the Seattle Kraken last season, he left the team for personal reasons. His absence started after officers were called to a crisis at a hotel before Game 3. A 28-year-old woman was reportedly in an ambulance when police arrived, and medics were told to speak with an Avalanche team physician to gather more details.

Valeri Nichushkin vs Jets

Valeri Nichushkin #13 of the Colorado Avalanche prepares for a first period face-off against the Winnipeg Jets in Game Five of the First Round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Canada Life Centre on April 30, 2024 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)

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A Seattle police report said the Avalanche physician told officers that team employees found the woman when they checked on Nichushkin, The Associated Press reported. The physician told officers the woman appeared to be heavily intoxicated, too intoxicated to have left the hotel in a cab or otherwise and requested EMS assistance.

“I know you guys want to find something there, but it’s nothing really interesting. I think we should close it,” he said before the season when asked about the incident.

Valeri Nichushkin vs Sabres

FILE – Colorado Avalanche forward Valeri Nichushkin celebrates his goal during the second period of the team’s NHL hockey game against the Buffalo Sabres, Feb. 4, 2020, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes, File)

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In the 54 games he did play during the 2023-24 season, he scored 28 goals and racked up 53 points.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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