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Penguins Relieve Johnston of Coaching Duties

Mike Sullivan has been named head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins, it was announced today by General Manager Jim Rutherford.

Sullivan replaces Mike Johnston, who was relieved of his duties earlier today. Along with Johnston, assistant coach Gary Agnew was also relieved of his duties.

“I felt it was time for a coaching change because our team has underachieved,” Rutherford said. “Our expectations are much higher with this group of players.

“Mike Sullivan has been a head coach and an assistant coach in the NHL and we’ve been very fortunate to have him with our AHL club this season. He’s done an outstanding job in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and he’s ready to step in.”

Sullivan, 47, was in his first season as head coach of the Penguins’ American Hockey League affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, leading his team to an 18-5 record and first place in the Atlantic Division.

The Marshfield, MA native was head coach of the Boston Bruins from 2003-06 and was an NHL assistant coach for eight seasons with the Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, New York Rangers and Vancouver Canucks. He spent the 2014-15 season as player development coach for the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks.

Sullivan will be joined on the bench by assistant coaches Rick Tocchet and Jacques Martin when he makes his Pittsburgh debut Monday night against the Washington Capitals at CONSOL Energy Center.

Tocchet has been a Penguins’ assistant coach since the start of the 2014-15 season. Martin began the current season in a newly-created role of special assistant to the head coach, serving as an “eye in the sky” observer from the press box.

Sullivan played more than 700 NHL games over 11 seasons with the San Jose Sharks, Calgary Flames, Boston Bruins and Phoenix Coyotes. A center who specialized in killing penalties, he produced 54 goals and 136 points in 709 games. Sixteen of his goals came short-handed.

He was named head coach of the AHL Providence Bruins immediately after retiring as a player in 2002 and led Providence to a 41-17-9-4 in 71 games before being promoted to an assistant coaching role in Boston late that season.

Sullivan went 41-19-15-7 in his first season as head coach with the Bruins in 2003-04, winning a division title. He was 70-56-31 in two seasons behind the Boston bench.

He then worked as an NHL assistant for seven straight seasons from 2007-14, including stints with Tampa Bay (2007-09), the New York Rangers (2009-13) and Vancouver (2013-14).

He also was an assistant coach for the United States at the 2006 Olympics and the 2007 World Championships.

Sullivan played college hockey at Boston University and was named team captain as a senior in 1989-90. He played for the U.S. at the 1988 World Junior Championships and the 1997 World Championships.

“I want to thank Mike Johnston and Gary Agnew for their contributions to the Penguins,” Rutherford said. “They are good hockey men, and we wish them all the best.”

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