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Ozolinsh cleared to return to on-ice competition

NEW YORK -- Anaheim Mighty Ducks defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh has been cleared to return to on-ice competition after a six-week stay in the NHL's substance abuse program, allowing him to play for Latvia in the Olympics.

The NHL and the players' association announced the move Tuesday, a day before Latvia's Olympic opener against the United States in Torino.

Ozolinsh didn't practice with his teammates Tuesday because he was en route to Italy with countryman Karlis Skrastins of the Colorado Avalanche.

"He was very happy to have the opportunity," Latvian goalie Arturs Irbe said of Ozolinsh's Olympic selection. "We are close friends. We have been together on different teams at different stages. It's going to be fun."

The 33-year-old Ozolinsh voluntarily entered the NHL's substance abuse program in late December and has been sidelined since Nov. 27 because of a knee injury. The seven-time All-Star has one goal and three assists in 13 games this season.

"He's fine," Irbe said. "We are expecting him to be as good as he can be."