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Posted at 01:16 PM ET, 02/24/2012

Top Capitals prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov hurt in KHL game

Update, 1:50 p.m.:According to Traktor’s website, the MRI has revealed “a slight damage to the knee ligament,” which isn’t nearly as serious as was originally feared. The website says Kuznetsov should be ready to play when the Gagarin Cup playoffs start March 1.

Just what the Caps fans needed – more bad news. More bad, injury-related news. Bad, injury-related, Russian-player news. Evgeny Kuznetsov, the Caps’ No. 1 draft pick in 2010 and the biggest star in the KHL, was injured in the dying seconds of today’s game between his Traktor Chelyabinsk and Spartak Moscow.

As seen in the video of the episode, posted on the KHL’s official YouTube account, Kuznetsov collided with Spartak’s defenseman Andre Benoit (an obvious interference penalty missed by the refs there) and immediately collapsed on the ice in obvious pain. After banging his stick on the boards to get the refs’ attention, the writhing, screaming 19-year-old forward was finally carried off on a stretcher.

Now, by looking at this video, one could’ve been tempted to assume that the Caps hopeful has suffered a severe knee injury, perhaps a torn ligament or two. Indeed, this is what the preliminary reports from Chelyabinsk did indicate, giving Caps fans a reason to rue their misfortune.

The latest news, though, according to the player’s agent Valery Gushchin and as reported by Sport-Express, may not be so dire. Gushchin said the diagnosis is “severe bruising of the soft tissues of the knee” and speculated that Kuznetsov may only miss three weeks or so.

If Kuznetsov’s injury does prevent him from skating in the upcoming KHL playoffs, expect it to play a part in what will be a feisty free-agent-signing battle this summer. Several KHL clubs, including such “oligarchs” as Salavat Yulayev Ufa and SKA St. Petersburg, are openly courting Kuznetsov and will be throwing buckets of money at him in order to prevent the prodigy from slipping away overseas. Just how big those buckets are may be determined by his health.

Just yesterday, Sport-Express reported that Kuznetsov rejected a proposed $2.5 million, one-year extension from Traktor, apparently looking for a much bigger incentive to stay in Russia.

Slava Malamud writes for Russia’s Sport-Express. You can follow him on Twitter at @SlavaMalamud.

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By Slava Malamud  |  01:16 PM ET, 02/24/2012

 
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