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Joe Smith, Times Staff Writer

Joe Smith

Joe Smith became the Tampa Bay Lightning beat writer for the Tampa Bay Times in 2014. He spent the previous six years splitting time covering the Rays, Bucs and Lightning He joined the Times in 2006 after spending two years with the Modesto Bee in California, where he did everything from covering the Single-A Modesto Nuts minor league baseball team and high school football to tackling first-person stories on whitewater rafting and adventure racing. Smith grew up in the Detroit suburbs and attended the University of Michigan, where he covered the football, basketball and hockey teams for the Michigan Daily. He freelanced for the Associated Press and Detroit Free Press before securing internships at Crain's Detroit Business and the Raleigh News & Observer. An avid runner, Smith loves traveling, bowling and singing karaoke.

Phone: (813) 310 9024



Lightning Strikes

  1. Stamkos contract saga getting eerie feel

    Lightning Strikes


    In mid June, two days after the Lightning's remarkable run to the Stanley Cup final ended, general manager Steve Yzerman was asked what his top priority was for the summer.

    "I would like to get Steven Stamkos signed to an extension," Yzerman said. "That's my No. 1 priority."

    Nearly six months later, there's still no deal for Stamkos, 25, the Lightning captain and face of the franchise, who is in the final year of his contract. The scary part for Lightning fans is that nothing appears even close to being done....

    Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) is unable to score while shooting against the Colorado Avalanche during first period action at the Amalie Arena in Tampa Thursday evening (10/29/15). DIRK SHADD   |   Times  

  2. Mystery over Tyler Johnson's early exit

    Lightning Strikes

    WASHINGTON — The frustrating season for C Tyler Johnson continues.

    Johnson left the Lightning's 4-2 loss to the Capitals on Friday for undisclosed reasons after playing one shift, the opening 48 seconds. Johnson had just returned to the lineup Wednesday against the Kings after missing three games with an upper-body injury.

    "That's tough," coach Jon Cooper said, "to get 48 seconds out of him."...

    Lightning center Tyler Johnson scores against the Kings on Wednesday in his return from an upper-body injury. He leaves Friday’s loss to the Capitals after one shift.
  3. Lightning 3-game win streak ends vs. Caps (w/video)

    Lightning Strikes

    WASHINGTON — The Lightning was feeling good about itself, having won three straight heading into Friday's game in the nation's capital.

    Maybe too good.

    In a measuring-stick game against one of the Eastern Conference's top teams, the Lightning got stuffed like Thanksgiving turkeys in an admittedly embarrassing 4-2 loss to the Capitals at the Verizon Center.

    "We (laid) an egg," center Brian Boyle said....

    Capitals left wing Jason Chimera, right, get congratulations from the bench after his second-period goal for a 2-0 lead as Lightning defensemen Braydon Coburn (55) and Anton Stralman skate away.
  4. Lightning-Islanders preview

    Lightning Strikes


    Lightning vs. Islanders

    When/where: 7 p.m., Amalie Arena

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 970-AM

    Key stats: As is the Lightning, the Islanders are playing the back end of back-to-back games, following a game against the Panthers on Friday in Sunrise. … New York entered Friday having lost two of its past three, both to the Canadiens. … The Islanders are led by C John Tavares, who had 10 goals and 10 assists entering Friday. … New York's power play ranked 24th at 15 percent. … Lightning G Ben Bishop, expected to start, has won his past three starts, allowing two goals. He has a 1.30 goals-against average since Nov. 4, which was the best in the league. … Tampa Bay is 0-1-1 in second games of back-to-backs this season. … The Lightning lost two of three meetings between the teams last season, winning the game at home Nov. 15, 2014....

  5. Lightning Nuts & Bolts: Kucherov hopes to be reunited with a friend

    Lightning Strikes

    Short shift w/ LW Joel Vermin

    You play any other sports growing up in Switzerland? I always played soccer. Until I was 10, 11, then it was too much with hockey.

    What's your favorite music? Before games I listen to dance and house music, but I listen to everything, R&B, hip-hop, rock.

    Top movie? I really like Avatar.

    Must-TiVo TV show? Big Bang Theory...

    Anaheim Ducks defenseman Sami Vatanen, left, of Finland, blocks a shot by Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Joel Vermin, right, during the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)  TPA109
  6. As Brown's play rises, so does his Lightning playing time

    Lightning Strikes

    WASHINGTON — In crunch time Wednesday, the Lightning and Kings in a 3-on-3 overtime period, Tampa Bay wing J.T. Brown got as many shifts as All-Star center Tyler Johnson.

    "He's earned it," coach Jon Cooper said.

    Ice time is a coach's biggest currency, his highest compliment. And Brown, 25, has received six minutes more per game in the past four, jumping from an average of 9 minutes, 46 seconds in the first 19 games to 15:45. That's because Brown is playing arguably the best hockey — or at least the most well-rounded — of his pro career....

    J.T. Brown has become more aggressive offensively, with four assists in his past six games and a team-high six shots against the Kings on Wednesday.
  7. Lightning tops Kings in shootout (w/ video)

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — You figured Wednesday's game would be tight and low scoring.

    The Lightning won plenty of those en route to the Stanley Cup final over the summer. And lately, offensively-challenged Tampa Bay had no choice. After two periods without a goal, coach Jon Cooper said the message was simple:

    "This is a playoff game," he said.

    But the way goalie Ben Bishop played, it sure looked like it, the Lightning finally prevailing in a shootout, a 2-1 win over the Kings in front of 19,092 at Amalie Arena....

    Tyler Johnson celebrates after beating Kings goalie Jonathan Quick in the third period to give the Lightning a 1-0 lead.
  8. Agents in Tampa, but no news on Stamkos talks

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — There was a bit of intrigue Wednesday as C Steven Stamkos' agents from Newport Sports were in town, in the stands watching the morning skate.

    Stamkos, 25, is in the final year of his contract, his uncertain status a major mystery in the hockey world.

    But the presence of agents Don Meehan and Mark Guy didn't mean Stamkos is any closer to a deal. GM Steve Yzerman wasn't even in Tampa on Wednesday. Guy said they were in town for an annual Thanksgiving trip, watching several clients on the Lightning and Kings....

    Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) goes down while battling for positioning against Los Angeles Kings center Andy Andreoff (15) during first period action at the Amalie Arena in Tampa Wednesday evening (11/25/15).
  9. Podcast: Pierre McGuire says Stamkos contract can be 'problem'


    NBCSN hockey analyst Pierre McGuire said he's seen most of the Lightning games this season.

    "A big fan of the way they play," McGuire said.

    While McGuire is more widely known by most hockey fans for his role between the benches for NBCSN broadcasts, he's spent three decades in the NHL, including serving as an assistant coach on the Penguins back-to-back Stanley Cup teams in the early 1990s....

  10. Johnson could return tonight: 'I want to be better'


    Center Tyler Johnson could return to the lineup tonight, giving the Lightning a boost against the Kings.

    "We're better team with Johnny on the ice," coach Jon Cooper said. "He's playing this week at some point, hopefully it's tonight."

    Johnson (upper body) said he's feeling good, and him playing after missing three games is up to the coaches/doctors.

    "It's always hard to miss games," Johnson said. "But it's kind of nice to have a break in a way too, I feel a bit refreshed and ready to go. Watching the team battle like they have, it lights a fire under everyone. I want to be part of that."...

  11. Steven Stamkos scoring more and Lightning needs it more than ever

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — You can count on one hand the number of players in the world who can score a goal like Steven Stamkos did in Saturday's second period.

    Okay, maybe two fingers.

    "The other guy plays in Washington," Kings center Anze Kopitar said, referring to the Capitals' Alex Ovechkin. "You've got to pay special attention."

    Pay attention to how Stamkos, 25, scored, beating Ducks goaltender Frederik Andersen, and it shows how the Lightning captain is gaining confidence, much like his team, which carries a two-game winning streak into tonight's game against the Kings....

    Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) celebrates his first of two second period goals during Saturday's (11/21/15) game at Amalie Arena in Tampa.
  12. Lightning getting healthier, Johnson close to return


    The Lightning looked a lot healthier in Tuesday's practice, with Tyler Johnson (upper body), Jonathan Drouin (undisclosed) and Cedric Paquette (upper body) all participating in regular-colored jerseys.

    Johnson, who has missed the last three games, appears the closest to returning, skating with Nikita Kucherov and Vladislav Namestnikov today. Johnson seemed optimistic about playing Wednesday against the Kings, saying it depends on what the trainers/coaches think....

  13. Callups reenergize Lightning

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Apparently, the Lightning didn't need a shakeup trade to turn its fortunes around.

    All it took was a spark from Syracuse.

    Desperate for wins, and down several regular forwards, the Lightning received a much-needed boost thanks to call-ups from AHL Syracuse. The prospects, such as Jonathan Marchessault and Joel Vermin, injected life in the Lightning (10-9-3), which has won two straight games for the first time since starting 3-0....

    Tampa Bay Lightning center Jonathan Marchessault (42), center, celebrates his third period goal with Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov (86) during Saturday's (11/21/15) game at Amalie Arena in Tampa. The goal was Marchessault's first NHL career goal.
  14. Lightning send down Blunden, Angelidis, Witkowski


    With wing Ryan Callahan back, and Tyler Johnson close, the Lightning reassigned some of its depth back to AHL Syracuse Sunday.

    Defenseman Luke Witkowski and forwards Mike Angelidis and Mike Blunden were sent to Syracuse.

    Callahan (lower body) returned to the lineup Saturday, with Johnson (upper body) potentially able to come back by the team's next game, Wednesday against the Kings. For now, forwards Joel Vermin and Jonathan Marchessault remain with the Lightning, but their status will depend on the recovery of wing Jonathan Drouin (undisclosed) and Cedric Paquette (upper body), who continue to skate but are not cleared for contact....

  15. Bishop, Lightning shut out Ducks (w/ video)

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Goalie Ben Bishop said he believes in the "law of averages."

    Having lost several hard-luck starts for the Lightning this season because of little goal support — including having a five-game losing streak — he figured it'd all balance out.

    What a better day for that to start than Saturday, Bishop's 29th birthday.

    Bishop was sparkling again in picking up his first shutout of the season, a 5-0 victory over the Ducks in front of an electric crowd of 19,092 at Amalie Arena....

    Lightning goalie Ben Bishop, guarded by Andrej Sustr (62), covers the puck after a hard charge to the net by Ducks center Ryan Kesler (17) during the first period. Bishop, on his 29th birthday, makes 30 saves for his first shutout of the season. “Nice personally to have a little puck luck,” he says. “Probably because it’s my birthday.”