A framed X-ray of Jeremy Roenick's spectacularly broken jaw adorns a wall in his kitchen, the only thing about him that is black and white. The NHL's most colorful and camera-friendly star, Roenick has also been among its most self-aggrandizing ones: The only surprise after Tony Amonte banged in a rebound of a Roenick shot for the Flyers' second goal of their second-round series against Toronto was that when the red light went on, Roenick didn't do 15 minutes of fresh material.
Although Roenick has regained all but two of the eight pounds he lost after his jaw was shattered by an inadvertent slap shot on Feb. 12, his face is gaunt, his cheeks concave and a four-inch scar traces his left jawline. The mug of hockey's crossover personality—he's a video-game cover-boy, he guest stars on TV shows-might be a mess, but he rarely has looked this good on the ice.
As Philadelphia continues to impose itself—after whipping the Devils in the first round, the Flyers took a 2-0 series lead on Sunday with a 2-1 win over the Maple Leafs—Roenick has had at least a point in six of seven playoff games and has done his share of grunt work away from the puck, playing with commitment in places where no spotlight shines. This is not JR Superstar but a converted center playing right wing alongside Amonte and Alexei Zhamnov on Philly's best playoff line and keeping a low, albeit marred, profile. Harangued for his self-absorption by veteran teammates and coach Ken Hitchcock, Roenick has added substance to STYLES, the license plate on his white Mercedes CL600.
"You have to sacrifice things, and a lot of it is your ego," Roenick said last Friday. "My ego is obviously a lot bigger than some people's. I'm not going to get a Cup by yapping my mouth off, by doing more commercials, by doing the opposite of everybody else. You have to throw that aside."
On the eve of the playoffs Roenick also tossed the protective cage he had worn after returning for the final five regular-season games. He thought that shield compromised his game, and the symbolism of the gesture resonated. The Devils tested Roenick immediately, with defenseman Sean Brown challenging him in the first period of Game 1. Brown and Roenick traded punches to the head, not part of the AMA's recommended rehab. "That first blow freed my mind," Roenick said. "It also let them know I'm not going to shy away." Through two games Toronto had targeted Philadelphia's vulnerable defense but had left Roenick alone.
"JR has found ways to fit in," Hitchcock says. "We've [had him] killing penalties, playing against the other team's best players. He's gotten better because of those responsibilities. He's always been a good friend for everybody. Now he's become a really good teammate."