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Friday, 8 February, 2002, 19:15 GMT

Russia lose top player

The Russian ice hockey team's Olympic medal quest has suffered a setback with the withdrawal of leading defenseman Dmitry Yushkevich.

The 30-year-old NHL player, who helped his country to second at the 1998 Nagano Olympics, was ruled out because of a blood clot in one of his legs.

Yushkevich's condition was discovered after he played in the Toronto Maple Leafs' 3-1 victory over the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday.

"It's a big loss for us because he was one of our top players"
Vyacheslav Fetisov
Russian coach

"His participation is out of the question," National head coach and general manager Vyacheslav Fetisov told a Russian radio station.

"Obviously, he is very disappointed, but you have to understand that we can't take any risks when it comes to the athlete's health.

"It's a big loss for us because he was one of our top players."

Yushkevich is now being treated with blood thinner for the clot which is in his calf, just below the knee, but is likely to miss the remainder of the NHL season in addition to the Winter Olympics.

Fetisov would not say who would replace Yushkevich in time for Russia's opening game against a qualifier on 15 February.

"Right now I have three players in mind but I won't tell you who they are until I speak to every one of them," he said.

Russia are one of the six seeds in the 14-team Olympic men's tournament.

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