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Panarin has 'nothing to hide,' wants to focus on Rangers till season ends

Forward says he plans to address 'everything' that led to leave of absence

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer

NEW YORK -- Artemi Panarin said he doesn't plan to address the situation that led to his recent leave of absence from the New York Rangers until after the season is over.

"It's probably not the time to discuss it right now," Panarin said Monday. "I have nothing to hide. I will address everything after the season, but right now the focus is on the game and not these discussions."

The right wing spoke to the media after he scored a goal and had two assists in a 5-4 overtime loss to the Philadelphia Flyers at Madison Square Garden.

They were Panarin's first public comments since leaving the Rangers on Feb. 22 after a story was reported in Russia that included an allegation that he was in a physical altercation with an 18-year-old woman in Riga, Latvia, in 2011. The allegation has not been corroborated.

Panarin missed nine games, with the Rangers going 4-5-0.

He returned to practice in Boston on Wednesday but didn't play in a 4-0 loss to the Boston Bruins at TD Garden on Thursday. He had an assist in a 4-0 win at the Bruins on Saturday before scoring three points Monday.

Panarin has scored 22 points (six goals, 16 assists) in 16 games.

"You can see our lineup just looks totally different when he's in there," Rangers coach David Quinn said. "We're just a much more balanced team. You add a player of that caliber into your lineup, you're a lot more dangerous, your whole team feels better about itself. He certainly has given us that jolt in the two games he's played."

The allegation against Panarin was made by former NHL forward Andrei Nazarov, who was Panarin's coach with Vityaz Podolsk in the Kontinental Hockey League.

The Rangers issued a statement Feb. 22, saying Panarin "vehemently and unequivocally denies any and all allegations in this fabricated story."

The statement added, "This is clearly an intimidation tactic being used against him for being outspoken on recent political events" in Russia.

Panarin has been vocal through social media in his support of Alexei Navalny, the opposition leader in Russia against President Vladimir Putin. Nazarov is a known Putin supporter, according to reports.

Panarin said he didn't change his training routine while on his leave of absence.

"Maybe I rested more, and maybe that's the lesson, that sometimes you should rest and you'll play better," he said.

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