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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

Email: joesmith@tampabay.com


Lightning Strikes

  1. Ben Bishop "getting there;" Johnson could return tonight


    Goalie Ben Bishop spent nearly an hour on the ice at Nassau Coliseum Saturday morning, facing live shots for the first time since suffering a lower body injury Monday.

    And, after skating back-to-back days, Bishop is encouraged by the progress.

    "It feels a lot better," he said. "It's getting there."

    Bishop said the team will see how he reacts to Saturday's hard workout, with the plan to practice Monday. There's a chance Bishop could return Tuesday at home against the Penguins, but with a three-day holiday break right after, the team could give him extra time to rest....

  2. Lightning falls to Devils in shootout

    Lightning Strikes

    NEWARK, N.J. — The Lightning was happy to at least salvage a point in Friday's 3-2 shootout loss to the Devils, having overcome a two-goal deficit to tie the score in the final minute.

    "We earned it," wing Ryan Callahan said.

    But as coach Jon Cooper said, it never should have came to that. Like Tampa Bay (20-10-4) has done often in its recent rut — dropping five of its past seven — it outshot (28-18) and outchanced the Devils, who snapped a five-game losing streak....

    Steven Stamkos, top, checks Patrick Elias to the ice in the first period, which ends 2-0 Devils.
  3. Lightning's Gudas returns, but Johnson is sick

    Lightning Strikes

    NEWARK, N.J. — The Lightning hasn't dealt with the mumps, but it appears another illness may be going around.

    After D Radko Gudas missed three games due to a stomach virus, C Tyler Johnson didn't play Friday against the Devils due to a similar bug. It was the first game that Johnson, the team's second-leading scorer, had missed in the past two seasons, snapping a streak of 115 straight. ...

    NEWARK, NJ - DECEMBER 19: Radko Gudas #7 of the Tampa Bay Lightning hits Eric Gelinas #22 of the New Jersey Devils into the boards during overtime 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) 507048343
  4. Lightning-Islanders Saturday night preview

    Lightning Strikes


    Lightning at Islanders

    When/where: 7; Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, N.Y.

    TV/radio: Sun Sports; 970-AM

    Key stats: The Islanders have won three straight with Friday's 2-1 victory against the Red Wings. … G Jaroslav Halak is 17-6-0 with a 2.30 GAA. … Centers Brock Nelson (14) and John Tavares (12) are the only Islanders with double-digit goals. … The Islanders (12-3-0 at home) entered Friday with the league's worst penalty kill (71 percent). … The teams split the first two meetings. The Lightning won 5-2 in Tampa on Nov. 15; the Islanders won 5-2 on Long Island on Nov. 18. … Defensemen Johnny Boychuk and Travis Hamonic were activated off injured reserve Friday. … Lightning G Andrei Vasilevskiy was expected to make his second career start....

  5. Lightning-Devils Friday night preview

    Lightning Strikes


    Lightning at Devils

    When/where: 7, Prudential Center, Newark, N.J.

    TV/radio: Sun Sports; 970-AM

    Key stats: The Devils have lost five straight (0-3-2), three of those games by one goal. … They outplayed the Senators on Wednesday, outshooting them 34-16, but lost 2-0. … New Jersey beat the Lightning 2-1 on Oct. 14 in Tampa. … Devils rookie D Damon Severson is out with a lower-body injury. … The Devils are 11-3-0 vs. the Lightning at the Prudential Center since 2007-08. … Devils LW Mike Cammalleri (11 goals) hasn't played since Dec. 13 due to a lower-body injury. … Lightning LW Nikita Kucherov has six points in his past four games....

  6. For Lightning, language shows way to success

    Lightning Strikes

    JERSEY CITY, N.J. — Wing Nikita Kucherov is having a breakout season, his 12 goals and plus-18 rating second on the Lightning.

    "He's been unbelievable," captain Steven Stamkos said.

    And Kucherov has Shameless, The Walking Dead and Blue Mountain State partly to thank.

    No, the television shows don't make Kucherov's hands any quicker or his shot any harder. But the 21-year-old Russian has used them as tools to improve his English, and he has made a dramatic improvement since last year. "Night and day," Stamkos said....

  7. Tyler Johnson questionable with stomach illness; Bishop still out


    The Lightning hasn't dealt with the mumps yet, but it appears a stomach virus may be going around.

    After defenseman Radko Gudas missed the last three games due to a stomatch virus, center Tyler Johnson isn't skating at today's practice in New Jersey due to a stomach illness. Johnson is questionable for Friday's game against the Devils.

    "He's got the 'G word,' The Gudas," coach Jon Cooper said....

    Center Tyler Johnson isn't skating at today's practice in New Jersey due to a stomach illness.
  8. Lightning sees future in Drouin, Vasilevskiy

    Lightning Strikes

    JERSEY CITY, N.J. — The Lightning showed a snapshot of its future Tuesday night in Philadelphia.

    There was touted goalie prospect Andrei Vasilevskiy, 20, making his NHL debut and impressing in a 3-1 win over the Flyers.

    And there was rookie wing Jonathan Drouin, 19, shining on the top line with Steven Stamkos, 24, setting up the captain's tying goal with a nifty give-and go.

    Drouin and Vasilevskiy add to the young core that includes Stamkos; Victor Hedman, 23; Tyler Johnson, 24; Ondrej Palat, 23, and Nikita Kucherov, 21. ...

     Touted goalie prospect Andrei Vasilevskiy, 20, made his NHL debut in a 3-1 win over the Flyers Tuesday night in Philadelphia. [Yong Kim/Philadelphia Daily News/TNS]
  9. Rookie goalie wins debut for Lightning vs. Flyers

    Lightning Strikes

    PHILADELPHIA — After a surprise call-up and early-morning flight, touted goaltending prospect Andrei Vasilevskiy arrived at the Lightning's hotel just around noon Tuesday.

    Coach Jon Cooper greeted him with the news he'd make his NHL debut hours later. How did the 20-year-old Russian react?

    "Pause, deep breath, gigantic exhale and then a big smile on his face," Cooper said. "I didn't know how to say it in Russian, and he barely knew how to say it in English. His eyes lit up, it was great."...

    Flyers defenseman Luke Schenn checks Lightning left wing Brenden Morrow into the bench during the third period. Tampa Bay was outshot by Philadelphia 24-23 but won for the third time in its past eight games.
  10. Ben Bishop optimistic he'll return from injury soon

    Lightning Strikes

    PHILADELPHIA — G Ben Bishop comfortably ambled around the team hotel Tuesday morning, confident his lower-body injury won't keep him out too long.

    "Nothing serious," he said. "Hopefully I'll be back here at the end of the week."

    It sure didn't look good, with Bishop pulling himself out of Monday's game after the first period, having tweaked something on a shot in the final two minutes. With Bishop unavailable, touted prospect G Andrei Vasilevskiy was recalled from AHL Syracuse and made his NHL debut Tuesday night....

    Lightning goalie Ben Bishop left Monday's game at Pittsbugh with a lower-body injury and sat out Tuesday's game at Philadelphia.  DIRK SHADD   |   Times
  11. Ben Bishop injury not considered long-term


    Lightning goalie Ben Bishop said his lower-body injury isn't serious and hopes to return by this weekend.

    Bishop said he "tweaked" something on a shot late in the first period of Monday's 4-2 loss to the Penguins. The Lightning went on the power play right after, so he decided to gut it out for the final 85 seconds, figuring he wouldn't see many shots.

    But Penguins' Brandon Sutter scored a short-handed goal on a breakaway, his shot bouncing off the knob of Bishop's stick. Bishop knew he wouldn't be coming back in the game....

    Lightning goalie Ben Bishop said his lower-body injury isn't serious and hopes to return by this weekend.
  12. Andrei Vasilevskiy recalled by Lightning, could debut tonight


    Touted goalie prospect Andrei Vasilevskiy has been recalled from AHL Syracuse today.

    And it's possible Vasilevskiy, 20, could make his anticipated NHL debut tonight against the Flyers in Philadelphia.

    Coach Jon Cooper said it'll be a "game-time decision" if he'll start Vasilevskiy or veteran backup Evgeni Nabokov. While Nabokov brings experience, with a Lightning team that has lost four of five, starting Vasilevskiy could provide a spark....

    Andrei Vasilevskiy, 20, has been playing very well for the Crunch, named AHL Player of the Week honors for allowing just one goal over three starts next week.
  13. Ben Bishop leaves injured in Lightning's loss to Penguins

    Lightning Strikes

    PITTSBURGH — Lightning goalie Ben Bishop came into the locker room after the first period and took off his gear.

    It didn't take long for Bishop to decide, after a lower-body injury late in the period, he wasn't coming back.

    "It was right away," coach Jon Cooper said. "He said he couldn't go. It's tough, he's a big part of our team."

    The Lightning lost 4-2 to the Penguins on Monday night, and has dropped four out of five. But its biggest loss might be Bishop. Cooper said Bishop will be re-evaluated today, but indicated a call-up would be likely before tonight's game in Philadelphia, potentially prospect Andrei Vasilevskiy, the AHL's player of the week....

    Lightning goalie Ben Bishop gloves a shot during the first period of Monday night's game against the Penguins in Pittsburgh. Bishop suffered a lower body injury and did not return for the second period. The Penguins won 4-2.
  14. League's mumps cases a concern for Lightning

    Lightning Strikes

    PITTSBURGH — With Penguins star Sidney Crosby the latest player to get diagnosed with mumps, the Lightning seems resigned to the fact that, at some point, the growing outbreak might hit its locker room.

    Fourteen players have had the mumps this season, spanning five teams (Ducks, Rangers, Devils, Penguins and Wild).

    "That's kind of the sitting duck right now," captain Steven Stamkos said. "It's pretty crazy to last this long and you see another case. It's just a matter of time. You just hope we can do a good job of trying to contain it. I think it's just hope and pray we don't get it."...

    FILE - This is an April 3, 2014, file photo showing Pittsburgh Penguins' Beau Bennett (19) and Sidney Crosby (87) after a goal by Bennett against the Winnipeg Jets during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The Penguins are worried forward Beau Bennett has mumps. General manager Jim Rutherford said Monday, Dec. 15, 2014, that Bennett has symptoms and the team is awaiting test results before making a diagnosis. Penguins captain Sidney Crosby is out for Monday night's game against Tampa Bay after being diagnosed over the weekend. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, John Woods, File) NY159
  15. Lightning-Flyers preview

    Lightning Strikes


    Lightning at Flyers

    When/where: 7, Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia

    TV/radio: Sun Sports; 970-AM

    Key stats: The Flyers (11-13-5) have won two straight, allowing two combined goals to the Devils and Hurricanes, after losing four of five on a road trip. Former Lightning captain Vinny Lecavalier is day to day with a lower body injury after begin a healthy scratch for the first time in his career. He has two goals and six points in 16 games. … The Lightning won all three meetings last season, and beat the Flyers 4-3 in Tampa. … The Flyers have the third-ranked power play (24 percent) and 29th-ranked penalty kill (74 percent). … G Evgeni Nabokov, expected to start tonight, is 10-4 with a 2.69 goals-against average in 17 career games against Philadelphia....