- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 12, 2019

ARLINGTON — Evgeny Kuznetsov did not meet with reporters at the Washington Capitals’ media day Thursday as the team awaits the NHL’s decision on whether to issue any discipline for his positive test for cocaine.

But his friends and teammates on the Capitals said they’re there to support Kuznetsov.

“He realize he makes mistake,” Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin said. “Everybody makes mistake in life, you guys as well. Sometimes the best thing is just support him and be at his side and don’t leave him alone. I think all other things, you have to be with him and when it’s a hard moment you have to stay together, and as a group all we’re going to do is support him and try to forget about it and hope he (is) not going to do the mistake again.”

Capitals coach Todd Reirden did not offer much when asked about Kuznetsov — a 27-year-old center who had a leading role getting Washington to the 2018 Stanley Cup, but whose production slipped last year.

“I’m going to have a lot to say about this and I feel more comfortable talking about it after everything has been finalized with the decision the league’s made,” Reirden said.

The NHL tests for cocaine and other so-called “drugs of abuse,” but usually does not discipline players for it. The league offers an education and counseling program for players, which Kuznetsov voluntarily entered after the IIHF announced his positive test and four-year ban from international competition.

In Kuznetsov’s case, he previously denied ever using cocaine after a video leaked online that showed him in a hotel room next to a table with white, powdery lines on it.

Forward T.J. Oshie referred to a time he missed practice with the St. Louis Blues for an unexcused reason and received a two-game suspension from the team.

“I made mistakes in my past. I missed a practice once and, you know, got in some trouble and I addressed the team and sometimes it gets a little emotional, but I think Kuzy is a great guy,” Oshie said. “I think he’s a good teammate and he’s fun to play with. I sit next to him in the locker room during games. He’s a good person so I don’t think he has to say much to us. If he does, I think people will appreciate it, but he doesn’t have to say anything to me, that’s for sure.”

Other team leaders — captain Ovechkin and alternate captain Nicklas Backstrom— also said they didn’t feel Kuznetsov needed to address the team in person to apologize.

“He doesn’t have to,” Backstrom said. “I think he’s smart enough to solve this on his own and with support from us, which I think he has 100%. So I just think we need to let him process this and do it his way.”

Ovechkin said he called Kuznetsov as soon as he learned of his positive test and said to let him know if he needed help.

“It doesn’t matter if we play together or play on a different team, I think we have a good relationship to support each other in different situations,” Ovechkin said.

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