Houston Chronicle

Rangers star denies attack

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New York Rangers star Artemi Panarin is taking a leave of absence from the team after a Russian tabloid printed allegation­s from a former coach that he attacked a woman in Latvia almost a decade ago, which he denies.

Andrei Nazarov ,a former NHL enforcer who coached Panarin in the Kontinenta­l Hockey League, told Russian tabloid Komsomolsk­aya Pravda in a story published Saturday that Panarin attacked an 18-year-old

Latvian woman in a hotel bar in the Latvian capital of Riga following a game in December 2011.

Nazarov told the tabloid that Panarin knocked the woman to the floor with “several powerful blows.” Nazarov said he later heard Latvian authoritie­s looked into the incident but that no action was taken, allegedly after money changed hands.

Nazarov said he was motivated to speak about the alleged incident because he disagreed with Panarin’s repeated criticism of the Russian government, including President Vladimir Putin.

“Artemi vehemently and unequivoca­lly denies any and all allegation­s in this fabricated story,” the Rangers said in a statement. “This is clearly an intimidati­on tactic being used against him for being outspoken on recent political events. Artemi is obviously shaken and concerned and will take some time away from the team..”

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