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Russian winger Zykov hit with 20-game NHL doping ban

Vegas Golden Knights winger Valentin Zykov (L) was issued a 20-game ban by the NHL after testing positive for a banned performance-enhancing substance (AFP Photo/Ethan Miller)

New York (AFP) - Vegas Golden Knights winger Valentin Zykov has been suspended 20 games without pay by the National Hockey League for a performance-enhancing substances violation.

The 24-year-old Russian was taking supplements not approved by the team and without its knowledge, Knights president of hockey operations George McPhee said.

"Needless to say we're extremely disappointed with the result, but we are very supportive of the program," McPhee said. "Unfortunately, Zykov knowingly took supplements, tested positive and is suspended, and we support the suspension."

Zykov will not be eligible to return until the Knights play at home against Arizona on November 29.

McPhee said he did not know about the positive doping test by Zykov until a conversation with the player's agent on Wednesday.

"We were completely in the dark until that point," he said. "We seemed to be the last to know."

Zykov has two assists and seven shots on goal over seven games this season for the Golden Knights, who claimed him after he had been released by Edmonton last December.

"I want to apologize to my family, my teammates, and the Golden Knights organization and fans," Zykov said in a statement. "I will work hard during my suspension to ensure that I put myself in the best possible position to contribute to my team when my suspension is over."

Zykov becomes the second Vegas player suspended for a doping violation, with defenseman Nate Schmidt banned for the first 20 games of last season. Schmidt denied taking any banned substance and the team backed him.

"In one instance we had a player ... had a substance that entered his body, it was a testable amount. We were convinced by all the evidence that we had that it was accidental or involuntary," McPhee said.

"And the second, a player knowingly took substances without our consent or recommendation, and he tested positive. We're supportive of our players, but they're completely different circumstances. One we defended vigorously, the other it's pretty black and white."

Zykov has six goals and nine assists in 47 career NHL games for Vegas, Edmonton and Carolina.