%mlink(STRY:; PHOTO:; AUDIO:%)

NEW YORK (AP) _ Nashville defenseman Jere Karalahti was suspended for six months without pay by the NHL on Friday for a third violation of the league's substance abuse policy.

The 27-year-old Karalahti will enter a treatment program.

The NHL Substance Abuse Program consists of four stages: treatment but no penalty; suspension without pay during treatment; a six-month suspension; a one-year suspension with no guarantee of reinstatement.

A native of Finland, Karalahti played nine seasons there before joining the Los Angeles Kings in the 1999-00 NHL season. He had eight goals and 17 assists in 101 games with the Kings before moving to Nashville last season. He played 45 games for the Predators with two assists and 41 penalty minutes.

The most prominent NHL player to enter the substance abuse program recently was Theo Fleury, then with the New York Rangers, who went into treatment in February 2001. Fleury signed a two-year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday.