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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. Lightning's slump feels more ominous than previous ones

    Lightning Strikes

    BRANDON — The Lightning and Penguins were separated by just 30 yards Friday afternoon, practicing on separate ice sheets at the Ice Sports Forum.

    But as the two teams prepare for tonight's rematch of May's thrilling seven-game Eastern Conference final, they couldn't feel further apart. Pittsburgh, the defending Stanley Cup champion, is rolling, atop the Metropolitan Division. Tampa Bay, a popular pick to hoist this season's Cup, is reeling, losers of six of seven and about as close to the Eastern Conference cellar as a playoff spot....

    The Lightning was badly outplayed by the Blue Jackets twice in five days in November.
  2. Seems like a setback for Ryan Callahan


    Coach Jon Cooper won't officially say it, but it certainly seems like veteran wing Ryan Callahan has suffered a setback in his lower-body injury.

    Callahan, 31, has missed the last five games. He told the Times Wednesday his surgically-repaired hip had been nagging him. But Callahan appeared like he was nearing a return Thursday, having felt encouraged after back-to-back skates Tuesday and Wednesday....

  3. Bishop, Lightning routed at home by Canucks

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — The fact the Lightning got blown out 5-1 by the Canucks on Thursday night was concerning enough.

    It was Tampa Bay's sixth loss in seven games, with defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh arriving at Amalie Arena on Saturday.

    But as the Lightning faces arguably its worst slide in recent seasons, it was more alarming in how the veteran-laden group is handling even smaller in-game adversity. ...

    Ben Bishop gives up Vancouver’s fourth goal late in the second. “That fourth one was the killer,” coach Jon Cooper says.
  4. Crazy-bounce goal part of tough game for Lightning's Bishop

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — G Ben Bishop was asked Thursday morning about his recent run of solid outings. He credited the play of the defense in front of him and the fact he hasn't experienced crazy bounces that led to goals during the early part of the season.

    And then the game started.

    Bishop allowed four goals in two periods during the Lightning's 5-1 loss to the offensively challenged Canucks....

  5. Ben Bishop making third straight start


    Lightning goalie Ben Bishop will start a third straight game for the first time this season.

    It's well-deserved, considering how Bishop performed in back-to-back games over the weekend, allowing a combined two goals. He was a big reason the Lightning snapped a four-game losing streak, taking three of four points over the weekend.

    "We need someone to help turn this around for us, and I truly believe we really made a conscious effort to play in our own end," coach Jon Cooper said. "But ultimately somebody has to make those big saves for you and Bish has made them....

    Ben Bishop will start his third straight game tonight against the Canucks.
  6. Lightning get healthy over two-day break


    Two days off did the Lightning a lot of good.

    That was easy to see in Wednesday's nearly-90 minute practice at Amalie Arena.

    "You could just tell, guys looked fresher, had a little jump in their step," coach Jon Cooper said.

    And Tampa Bay is getting back to full strength. Ryan Callahan (lower body), Jason Garrison (lower body) and wing Jonathan Drouin (undisclosed) all practiced Wednesday. Cooper said Callahan and Garrison are probable for Thursday's game against the Canucks, and Drouin could return, too, though he's between probable and questionable....

    Ryan Callahan is probable for Thursday's game against the Canucks.
  7. First-quarter accolades for Lightning wing Nikita Kucherov

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Penguins captain Sidney Crosby is widely considered the best player in the world.

    Some think Oilers phenom Connor McDavid is a close second, despite being in just his second season.

    But when ESPN national hockey writer Scott Burnside picked his Hart Trophy leader for league MVP through the first quarter of the season, neither Crosby nor McDavid got the nod.

    It was Lightning wing Nikita Kucherov. ...

    Nikita Kucherov, left, had John Tortorella considering locking in a defender on him.
  8. Lightning reassign Witkowski and Bournival to Syracuse


    It appears the Lightning is getting healthier.

    Tampa Bay reassigned defenseman Luke Witkowski and Michael Bournival to AHL Syracuse Tuesday. That seems like a good sign that wing Jonathan Drouin (undisclosed injury) and defenseman Jason Garrison (lower body) might be available Thursday against the Canucks at Amalie Arena.

    The Lightning took Monday and Tuesday off, and will return to practice Wednesday. Drouin missed Sunday's game with his injury. Garrison has been out since taking a shot off the outside of his knee Thursday in St. Louis....

    The Lightning reassigned defenseman Luke Witkowski to AHL Syracuse Tuesday.
  9. A cause that hits close to home for Ryan Callahan

    Lightning Strikes

    Josh Fisher laughed as he flopped on the floor in an Amalie Arena suite. But the fun had nothing to do with the Lightning-Islanders game he was attending Nov. 10.

    Fisher, 8, was playing Chutes and Ladders with a couple other pediatric cancer patients. It looked like he was winning.

    Fisher is in remission following a 31/2-year battle with leukemia. Now he's part of Cally's Crew, a group of patients and their families that Lightning wing Ryan Callahan hosts at Amalie. There's pizza, video games, gift bags and, most importantly, a connection with other children like them. ...

    Joshua Fisher (in front), 8, and his brothers, Justin (standing on left), 14, and Charlie, 11, from Odessa, get a picture , in the locker room with Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Ryan Callahan as Callahan visits with families in his "Cally's Crew" which is part of The Ryan Callahan Foundation, after the Lightning game against the New York Islanders at the Amalie Arena in Tampa on Thursday (11/10/16). Joshua, a cancer survivor, was also accompanied by his parents. The Ryan Callahan Foundation focuses on helping kids with pediatric cancer. "Cally's Crew" invites pediatric cancer patients and their families to Lightning home games in his suite the past two seasons. Callahan also has the "2-4" Club, make-a-wish type of trip, all-expenses paid, granted to a selected child and his family each month. Callahan's foundation will also work to fundraise, and create awareness.
  10. Lightning losing skid ends at four with shootout win over Caps (w/ video)

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — You could tell by Ben Bishop's celebration just how much Saturday night's 2-1 shootout win over the Capitals meant to the Lightning.

    Bishop pumped his fist, then emphatically waved both arms at the Amalie Arena sellout crowd of 19,092, which finally had something to celebrate. Tampa Bay had snapped its season-long four-game losing streak and picked up its first points in 10 days....

    Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov (86) moves the puck in the first period of the game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Washington Capitals in Amalie Arena in Tampa, Fla. on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016.
  11. Lightning's Killorn: Unanimous rejection of NHL Olympic proposal

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — RW Alex Killorn said there's no doubt NHL players want to participate in the 2018 Olympics in South Korea.

    But the players union wasn't willing to add three years to the collective bargaining agreement to ensure that participation. That's why Killorn said players "unanimously" rejected on Friday the NHL's offer of allowing players to participate if they extended the labor deal to 2025....

    BLOOD? DO I FEEL BLOOD? Lightning center Tyler Johnson checks his face after taking a high stick from Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom in the first period. He wasn’t seriously hurt.
  12. With vocal leaders out hurt, other Lightning players must fill void

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — With recent injuries to captain Steven Stamkos, wing Ryan Callahan and defenseman Anton Stralman, the Lightning has lost some of its top players.

    It also has lost some of its strongest voices.

    So it should come as little surprise that not only has the trio's absence left a void on the ice, it also has created a vocal leadership vacuum in the dressing room. And it couldn't have come at a worse time with Tampa Bay mired in a season-long four-game losing streak entering Saturday's game against the Capitals. ...

    Center Tyler Johnson has become a more vocal leader with the Lightning since three of its key voices — Steven Stamkos, Anton Stralman and Ryan Callahan — went out with injuries.
  13. Killorn: 'Unanimous' rejection of NHL proposal on Olympics


    There's no doubt NHL players want to participate in the 2018 Olympics in South Korea.

    "Everyone wants to go to the Olympics," said Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman, who'd likely be on Sweden's roster.

    But the players' union wasn't willing to sacrifice three more years of negotiating rights on the next collective bargaining agreement in order to go. The NHL's latest offer of allowing players' participation in the Olympics for pushing the CBA's out clause to 2023 was rejected this week....

  14. Jason Garrison injury not long-term


    Just when the Lightning got defenseman Anton Stralman back, it lost another top-four defenseman.

    Jason Garrison is out tonight after suffering a lower-body injury at the end of the second period Thursday. Garrison took a shot off the outside of his leg, having trouble skating off. Garrison didn't skate this morning, and would appear doubtful for Sunday's game in Carolina. He's considered day-to-day, coach Jon Cooper said....

  15. Lightning GM Yzerman concerned but calm about skid

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — If you're a concerned Lightning fan, you've got company.

    It's frustrating to players and coaches that Tampa Bay, a preseason Stanley Cup favorite, is playing mediocre hockey as the calendar flips to December. So you can imagine how the struggles are sitting with the Hall of Fame player who built the team.

    "I can't say, if I look at it all together, that I'm really pleased with where we're at at this point," general manager Steve Yzerman said Friday. "The intensity, the urgency in our play hasn't been there."...

    Valtteri Filppula, left, and teammates suffered a fourth straight loss vs. the Blues. Defensive breakdowns have been key.