DeBoer on Bortuzzo hit ‘real liberty and totally unnecessary’

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The New Jersey Devils lost 1-0 Tuesday night in Pittsburgh, but the bigger loss could be to the team’s forward group.

Stephen Gionta, Patrik Elias and Jaromir Jagr all left the game before the end of the second period leaving the Devils with just nine forwards for the final 20 minutes.

Jagr’s situation is the one, which was most talked about post-game as he took what appeared to be a late hit from Penguins defenseman Robert Bortuzzo in the second period.

Jagr was attended to on the ice and left the game immediately.

Devils coach Pete DeBoer said he was told by the referees that the hit was not seen.

“It was a headshot. It doesn’t matter whether it was a shoulder or elbow, it’s a shot to the head,” said DeBoer post-game. “Real liberty and totally unnecessary. If one of our guys did that to Crosby then it’s World War 4.”

Not exactly sure what happened to World War 3, but Jordin Tootoo challenged, Bortuzzo several times throughout the game.

“Jagr’s our best player and any time someone takes a run at you, my job is to make sure that it doesn’t happen again,” he said.

Tootoo added, “I’m not going to forget what number he is. It’s a long season.”

Tootoo was back checking at the time of Bortuzzo’s hit.

“I wish I would have been there at that moment because there would have been gloves flying,” he said.

For those wondering, the teams meet again Dec. 29 in New Jersey.

DeBoer had no updates on Elias or Gionta.

Gionta blocked a Paul Martin shot late in the first period. Elias left the game soon after.

Scott Gomez, who was playing in his first regular season game with the Devils since April 8, 2007, hinted Elias may have suffered an elbow injury. He left the game soon after Gionta in the first period.

Gomez finished the night with 22:10 in ice time.