PITTSBURGH — Mario Lemieux and the Pittsburgh Penguins are turning to a former rival to help them keep the Stanley Cup window open for Sidney Crosby and company. The team hired former Philadelphia Flyer goaltender and general manager Ron Hextall as the team’s general manager on Tuesday.

Hextall replaces Jim Rutherford, who resigned abruptly last month. The Penguins also hired longtime league executive Brian Burke, an original Maine Mariner, as director of hockey operations.

The hires come less than two weeks after Rutherford, who built a roster around longtime captain Crosby that brought consecutive Stanley Cups to Pittsburgh in 2016 and 2017, stepped down with six months left on his contract, saying only “it was time.”

The 56-year-old Hextall won 240 games during his 13-year career, 11 of which came in Philadelphia, where the Flyers frequently battled Lemieux – now Pittsburgh’s co-owner – and the Penguins for bragging rights. Hextall retired in 1999 and has spent most of the last two decades as a league executive, including a four-year stint as general manager of the Flyers.

“It’s an honor to be joining the Pittsburgh Penguins – an organization well-known for its excellence on and off the ice,” Hextall said in a statement. “I look forward to working with ownership, Brian and the entire organization toward the ultimate goal of bringing another Stanley Cup to Pittsburgh.”

Burke, 65, has spent more than 30 years in management and was the general manager of the Anaheim Ducks when the franchise captured the Stanley Cup in 2007.

“We feel incredibly lucky to bring in two highly respected executives with a combined 50-plus years of NHL management experience,” Penguins president and CEO David Morehouse said in a statement. “Ron and Brian are well-known in the hockey world as fierce competitors with championship pedigrees. They’re very well-connected and experienced in all aspects of the game. They are both excited to get to work here in Pittsburgh, blending their skills and building on our long tradition of success.”

Hextall and Burke take over a club that still feels it is among the NHL’s elite, even with Crosby, former Hart Trophy winner Evgeni Malkin and defenseman Kris Letang all in their mid-30s. Pittsburgh is currently in fifth place in the crowded East Division with a 5-5-1 record (11 points) through 11 games.

POSTPONED: The league has postponed Tuesday night’s Flyers-Capitals game in Washington because of COVID-19-related issues with Philadelphia. It’s the 34th game postponed so far this season, which is roughly a quarter of the way through.

Flyers defenseman Travis Sanheim was added to the league’s COVID protocol list Sunday, and teammates had to take rapid tests that morning before playing the Capitals in the afternoon. That game went on as scheduled. A second Flyers player also entered COVID protocol.

Philadelphia’s upcoming games against New Jersey and Washington’s at Buffalo scheduled for Thursday and Saturday were already postponed because of breakouts on the Devils and Sabres.

Some Buffalo players returned to practice Tuesday, though Coach Ralph Krueger, 61, is dealing with symptoms, according to General Manager Kevyn Adams. Krueger allowed the team to reveal he tested positive.

BLUE JACKETS: Center Mikko Koivu said he has decided to retire in the midst of his 16th NHL season.

Koivu, 37, had signed a free-agent contract with Columbus before this season after 15 years in Minnesota as the Blue Jackets sought more depth at center ice.

He spent the first 10 days of the season on the COVID-19 list and then had a goal and an assist in seven games with the Blue Jackets. He was in the lineup during a loss to Carolina on Sunday but was scratched for Monday’s game.

Koivu said in a statement released by the club that “the bottom line is I haven’t been able to get to the level of play that I need to be true to myself and fair to my teammates, so the time is right for me to retire from hockey.”

Minnesota’s first pick, sixth overall, in the 2001 draft, Koivu recorded 206 goals and 505 assists with 594 penalty minutes in 1,035 career games since making his NHL debut in 2005-06. He added 11 goals and 17 assists with 38 penalty minutes in 59 career playoff games.

The native of Turku, Finland, also represented his homeland in many international tournaments, including the Olympics in 2006 and 2010.

TUESDAY’S GAMES

PANTHERS 2, RED WINGS 1: Sergei Bobrovsky made 31 saves and Patric Hornqvist was credited with the eventual winning goal when a teammate’s shot bounced off his shoulder and into the net as Florida won at home.

Bobrovsky improved to 4-0-1 this season. Alex Wennberg also scored for the Panthers.

Hornqvist’s winner and sixth goal of the season came on a power play when a shot by Aaron Ekblad deflected off his shoulder and over the head of Thomas Greiss at 8:04 of the second period, making the score 2-1. Hornqvist also had an assist.

Filip Zadina scored for the Red Wings.

OILERS 3, SENATORS 2: Defensemen Darnell Nurse, Evan Bouchard and Tyson Barrie provided the scoring and Edmonton won at Ottawa.

With the defense providing the offense, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl saw their 10-game point streaks come to an end. Draisaitl hit the post with the net empty in the final seconds.


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