Lightning players had to look twice before they laughed.
There was Andre Roy sitting in the Tampa Bay locker room, clapping, yelling, urging players about to hit the ice for their morning skate to kick butt that night against the Penguins.
The joke last month in Pittsburgh was that Roy played for the opposition and sat among his former teammates wearing his Penguins jersey.
"I was just clowning around, 'Big game, let's go get 'em,' '' Roy recalled Saturday night by phone from Pittsburgh. "I could hear everybody laughing.''
Roy brings his act back to Tampa after the Lightning Saturday claimed him off waivers.
The move is no joke. Tampa Bay needs the physical presence the 6-foot-4, 225-pound left wing can provide. And if Roy tickles a few funny bones along the way, so much the better in a locker room captain Tim Taylor admitted is a little too reserved.
For Roy, 31, it is a chance to get his career back on track. He played just five games this season before the Penguins shipped him to AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Not what was expected after Pittsburgh signed him to a three-year deal in the summer of 2004.
"It's up to me,'' Roy said, "to go out there and play.''
Most important, though, it is up to him to stay out of coach John Tortorella's dog house. The two have had their share of high-volume exchanges. And Roy, who played for Tampa Bay from March 2001 through the 2004 Cup season, sat out many games as a healthy scratch.
Tortorella believed Roy, a good skater with a huge shot, did not always play within the team concept and could be undisciplined.
- Roy was suspended 13 games in April 2002 for wrestling with officials after a fight with the Rangers' Sandy McCarthy.
- He was suspended three games in February 2003 for pushing officials after a fight with the Islanders' Eric Godard.
- He avoided suspension in January 2003 for punching from the bench Detroit's Kirk Maltby.
- And who can forget Game 2 of the 2003 East quarterfinal against the Capitals? Tortorella removed Roy from the bench after an ill-advised first-period roughing penalty and left him home for Games 3 and 4 in Washington.
Tortorella has said a phone call between the two the day after Game 2 was full of expletives.
But a phone call after Roy signed with the Penguins apparently healed the relationship.
"Do I miss him? Yeah,'' Tortorella said last month. "We miss a personality like that. Did we have some battles? Yeah. But that's all part of going through a situation.''
"Whatever he wants me to do,'' Roy said. "I know he really believes I can be an effective player. I left on a good note. He's going to give me a chance to play, and that's all I'm looking for.''
Funny the way things work. The Lightning needed two seasons without a true physical presence to appreciate what it had. And Roy said he now understands the discipline and structure Tortorella tried to instill.
"I know I sat out a lot,'' Roy said. "But now that I look back, I know it was part of the game.''
Speculation is Roy will play on a fourth line with Nick Tarnasky, who is learning to create a physical presence and was recalled Sunday from AHL Springfield.
"He brings enthusiasm,'' Taylor said. "He brings toughness that we've lacked. And he's another guy who helps out in the dressing room. He speaks up. He helps motivate, and he can play.''
And he can crack people up like he did in Pittsburgh when he visited the Lightning locker room. His impersonation of a loud-mouthed pro wrestler also is something to see.
Asked about his entrance today at the St. Pete Times Forum, Roy paused to think.
"Maybe,'' he said, "I'll wear my Stanley Cup jersey.''
Damian Cristodero can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8622. View his blog at lightning.tampabay.com.