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Canadiens 'very concerned,' GM says

2/21/2009

BROSSARD, Quebec -- The Montreal Canadiens made it clear that they are troubled about allegations that three of their players have been socializing with a man recently arrested on drug charges.

The French-language daily La Presse reported Friday that Andrei Kostitsyn and Sergei Kostitsyn had social ties with Pasquale Mangiola, who was arrested Feb. 12.

"We're very concerned," Montreal general manager Bob Gainey said at a news conference at the team's suburban practice facility. "We're very concerned because we know that this person who became involved with these players, he's not the only person who wants to find a place to enter the inner area of the hockey team."

La Presse said none of the three players is suspected of any criminal activity.

Although it's not known whether NHL security officials did meet Friday with Montreal police investigators, a source familiar with the situation told ESPN.com there is no evidence of the Canadiens players engaging in illegal activities. Players just made "bad decisions with respect to who they choose to associate with," the source said.

Another source familiar with the Kostitsyn brothers echoed that sentiment, saying it seemed more like young men interested in fun nights on the town than anything more sinister.

In addition to the Belarusian brothers, La Presse identified Czech defenseman Roman Hamrlik as another player who had hung around with Mangiola, who faces charges including conspiracy and possessing and trafficking cocaine.

"I haven't spoken to those three players individually," Gainey said. "We did have a meeting this morning where I spoke to the players in general about the articles that were in the paper today and lifestyle and decisions, about people, about acquaintances, about places, about choices."

The Canadiens did not make any players available to the press following practice other than Alex Kovalev, who returned to the team after he was told to skip a two-game road trip and rest.

The NHL's security department, which visits each club every season to discuss a variety of issues, including personal associations, is also looking into the matter.

"The NHL is aware of the reports and is in the process of gathering additional information," deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement.

Andrei Kostitsyn told La Presse following Montreal's 6-5 loss in Pittsburgh on Thursday that he knew Mangiola but that he didn't know anything about his situation.

"Well, I can only go on what I know today, and I think what I know today is not good," Gainey said. "It's not good for our team. It doesn't reflect well on our team, it doesn't reflect well on the individuals, it cannot be extinguished as a possible inhibitor to our performance."

ESPN.com NHL writer Scott Burnside and The Associated Press contributed to this report.