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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 goalie Bishop picks up where he left off (w/ video)

    Lightning Strikes

    BUFFALO, N.Y. — It looked like Ben Bishop had no chance.

    The Lightning goalie was deked out by Flyers star Claude Giroux during a first-period penalty shot Thursday. Bishop slid to the right, leaving Giroux an open net.

    "He had me beat," Bishop said.

    But Bishop, 28, didn't give up. There's a reason defenseman Anton Stralman calls Bishop the most competitive goalie he has ever played with (a group that includes Rangers Vezina Trophy winner Henrik Lundqvist). Bishop instinctively tried something he had done only once, in practice. He lunged to lift Giroux's stick and thwarted the attempt....

    Ben Bishop gets his first of two penalty-shot stops versus the Flyers on Claude Giroux in the first.
  2. Lightning-Sabres preview

    Lightning Strikes


    Lightning at Sabres

    When/where: 1, First Niagara Center, Buffalo, N.Y.

    TV/radio: Sun Sports; 970-AM

    Key stats: The Lightning dominated the Sabres last season (4-0-1), outscoring them 16-3. But Buffalo has a much different look, especially with June's No. 2 overall draft pick, C Jack Eichel, who scored Thursday in his NHL debut. … Backup G Chad Johnson will start for Buffalo after Robin Lehner suffered a lower-body injury Thursday. … Lightning G Ben Bishop is 2-0-0 with a shutout and a 0.50 goals-against average against the Sabres. … C Cedric Paquette (left foot) could return....

  3. Lightning opens with OT win over Flyers (w/video)

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Defenseman Jason Garrison tried to remember the last time he scored a breakaway goal.

    "Probably Pee Wee," he said, smiling.

    Welcome to the wildly entertaining — and to some, goofy — new 3-on-3 overtime format, which took center stage in the Lightning's 3-2 win over the Flyers on opening night at Amalie Arena on Thursday.

    "Personally, I don't think it's fair," said Ben Bishop, the winning goalie of the new format. "One breakaway, then another breakaway. I think the shootout, it's fair both ways. This is going to be a little bit more of a gong show."...

    Goalie Ben Bishop stops the Flyers’ Scott Laughton on a penalty shot in 3-on-3 overtime, which Bishop calls “goofy.”
  4. Vinny Lecavalier still loves Lightning, Tampa Bay

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Vinny Lecavalier hasn't played for the Lightning for two years, but he says it's still a special feeling getting back on the Amalie Arena ice.

    "It reminds you of so many things," he said Thursday.

    Lecavalier, 35, a former Lightning captain, played 14 seasons in Tampa Bay and helped bring it a Stanley Cup in 2004. That's why it was especially tough for Lecavalier to be a healthy scratch for the Flyers in their season opener against the Lightning. Lecavalier found out he would be scratched 10 days before....

    WELCOME BACK: Lightning fans climb the steps as the Amalie Arena doors open for the opener.
  5. Lecavalier says it's tough to be scratched in Tampa return


    Vinny Lecavalier hasn't played for the Lightning for two years now, but he says it's still a special feeling getting back on the Amalie Arena ice.

    "It reminds you of so many things," he said. "Pretty cool."

    Lecavalier. 35, was former Lightning captain, the face of the franchise, winning a Cup here in 2004. That's why it makes it especially tough for Lecavalier to be a healthy scratch for the Flyers again as they open the season tonight against the Lightning. Lecavalier, scratched last season (17 games) for the first time in his career, found out 10 days ago he wouldn't be playing....

    Vinny Lecavalier will be a healthy scratch for the Flyers again as they open the season tonight against the Lightning.
  6. Lightning begins 'new journey' tonight


    There will be a little pomp and circumstance tonight, with the Lightning unveiling its Eastern Conference championship banner at Amalie Arena.

    It's opening night for Tampa Bay, coming off its remarkable run to the Stanley Cup Final, and there's a different feel as the team prepares to face the Flyers.

    "Two years ago, it was a little bit more of us against the world type of attitude that nobody really cared about us," coach Jon Cooper said. "Now it's different because it's eyes-wide open now. We're not sneaking up on anyone this year."...

    Lightning players prep for the season opener during the morning skate Thursday at Amalie Arena.
  7. Three Lightning players who must break through this season

    Lightning Strikes

    Breaking through?

    Three Lightning players who need to take a significant step this season.

    LW Jonathan Drouin

    Drouin (below) dazzled in the preseason with four highlight-reel goals, playing with the kind of confidence that was fleeting in his rookie season. The continued development of the 2013 third overall draft pick, 20, is not only important this season, as he's starting on a line with Steven Stamkos, but also going forward if the Lightning captain moves on after this season, the final in his contract....

    NEWARK, NJ - DECEMBER 19:  Jonathan Drouin #27 of the Tampa Bay Lightning skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on December 19, 2014 in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils defeated the Lightning 3-2 in the shootout.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
  8. Tyler Johnson likely a go for Lightning opener (w/ video)

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — C Tyler Johnson returned to practice Wednesday morning and is expected to play in tonight's season opener.

    "I feel good," he said. "Ready to play."

    Johnson suffered an undisclosed injury in the second period of Saturday's exhibition finale against the Panthers and did not practice Monday. Johnson declined to elaborate on the injury, indicating that it won't linger....

    Tyler Johnson, celebrating last season, says an undisclosed injury from Saturday won’t linger.
  9. Lightning prepares for NHL rules changes

    Lightning Strikes

    3-on-3 overtime

    In an effort to reduce the number of games decided in shootouts, overtime will now be a five-minute, 3-on-3 overtime period. It used to be 4-on-4. If the preseason is any indication, it should make for some thrilling finishes and odd-man rushes, along with significantly fewer games ending in a glorified skills competition.

    Coaches got a chance to experiment during preseason, having to make the tough decisions on whether to go with a two forward/one defenseman alignment or another mix. ...

    "I think it's going to have a definite impact on the game," coach Jon Cooper said of the new five-minute, 3-on-3 overtime period. [DIRK SHADD | Times]
  10. Rays' Moore and Odorizzi enjoy skating with Lightning


    Rays pitchers Matt Moore and Jake Odorizzi were special guests at Lightning practice Wednesday morning, and there was one thing clear.

    "I think they should probably stick to baseball," All-Star center Tyler Johnson joked.

    Moore and Odorizzi got dressed in full Lightning gear, spending about an hour on the ice after practice. At the beginning, it was an adjustment, Moore staying close to the boards to prevent a fall. Odorizzi, who grew up watching some hockey, looked more comfortable, trying to take slap shots near the end. They both enjoyed the experience, saying it gave them even more respect for what hockey players can do....

    Rays pitchers Matt Moore, left, and Jake Odorizzi were special guests at Lightning practice Wednesday morning.
  11. For Lightning, a new Stanley Cup quest begins

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Though Lightning coach Jon Cooper has often found creative ways to motivate players, he had never used an inspirational video.

    That changed during a team meeting on the opening day of training camp, when Cooper flipped on a highlight film that spanned a two-year journey. It started with clips of the Lightning getting swept by Montreal in the first round of the 2014 playoffs, including Cooper and Ryan Callahan's postgame interviews. ...

    Can the Lightning join the 2008-09 Red Wings and Penguins as the only teams in the salary cap era to reach back-to-back Stanley Cup finals. [Getty Images; DIRK SHADD | Times; Getty Images]
  12. Tyler Johnson returns to practice, looks good for Lightning opener


    Lightning center Tyler Johnson returned to practice Wednesday, a good sign he might be available for Thursday's season opener. 

    Johnson suffered an undisclosed injury in the second period of Saturday's game and didn't return. He didn't practice Monday in Estero. 

    But Johnson looked good in Wednesday's skate, participating in all drills and rushes with his Triplets line. ...

    Lightning center Tyler Johnson returned to practice Wednesday.
  13. Lightning making tweaks to make power play better

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — The amount of skill on the Lightning power play is stunning.

    There's Steven Stamkos, one of the world's top goal-scorers and snipers. Then there are the Triplets, the league's most dynamic line last season with Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat. And that's just one unit.

    "It's hard to defend in practice," center Brian Boyle said. "It's like when you're a kid and your older brother won't let you play with the ball, you're out there chasing the puck around."...

    Center and captain Steven Stamkos leads one of the Lightning power-play units.
  14. Lightning goes with Kevin Poulin as No. 2 goalie, for now

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — The Lightning officially picked its backup goalie Tuesday, with G Kevin Poulin making the roster and G Kristers Gudlevkis reassigned to AHL Syracuse.

    But don't expect Poulin, 25, to be needed often. Starter Ben Bishop will likely carry a large load, especially early in the season. G Andrei Vasilevskiy (vascular surgery, injured reserve) expects to return to practice late this month and could be ready to resume his backup role by early November....

    Kevin Poulin
  15. Johnson has 'no idea' who woman on Kimmel was


    When it comes to being a professional athlete, nothing appears private anymore.

    And with social media, not everything is true.

    Lightning center Tyler Johnson found that out the hard way. A woman during a segment on Monday's Jimmy Kimmmel show said the "most impressive" thing she's done is cheat on her boyfriend. And, she alleged after prodding, it was with Johnson.

    Johnson, 25, who is single, strongly denied such claims....

    Lightning center Tyler Johnson, who is single, strongly denied a woman's claims on Monday's Jimmy Kimmmel show said she cheated on her boyfriend with Johnson.