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

Blogs:

Lightning Strikes

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  1. Morrow encouraged by progress, hopes to play Saturday

    Blog

    Lightning veteran wing Brenden Morrow returned to the ice Thursday, having been limited the past three days due to a stiff back.

    Morrow, 35, was encouraged with how he felt after a long workout, and while he won't play tonight in Sunrise against the Panthers, he's hoping to get into the preseason finale Saturday at Amalie Arena.

    "I had a good day today, so spirits are pretty high," Morrow said. "It's been frustrating the last couple days, but I felt really good today. I think we'll see how it reacts after today's skate. But hopeful for Saturday."...

  2. Brett Connolly having his best Lightning camp

    Lightning Strikes

    ESTERO — Unlike previous preseasons, RW Brett Connolly's statistics won't pop off the page.

    Connolly, 22, scored his first goal in three preseason games Tuesday against the Stars, a wrist shot past former Lightning G Anders Lindback in the third period.

    But coach Jon Cooper said Connolly, the No. 6 overall draft pick in 2010, is having his best camp. And it couldn't have come at a better time; the Lightning is expecting Connolly to compete for a top-six forward spot....

    Wing Brett Connolly, expected to compete for a top-six spot, is showing more poise with the puck, coach Jon Cooper says.
  3. Cooper: Connolly having his best camp

    Blog

    Unlike previous preseasons, Lightning RW Brett Connolly’s stats won’t pop off the page.

    Connolly, 22, scored his first goal in three preseason games Tuesday, a wrist shot past former Lightning G Anders Lindback in the third period.

    But coach Jon Cooper said Connolly, the No. 6 overall pick in 2010, is having his best camp. And it couldn’t have come at a better time as the Lightning is expecting Connolly to compete for a top-six forward spot....

  4. Bishop said it felt like 'midseason' in Tuesday's start

    Blog

    For the Lightning, one of the biggest questions heading into camp was the health of goalie Ben Bishop, who underwent right wrist surgery in April.

    But Bishop, the Vezina Trophy finalist, was encouraged how he felt Tuesday after playing his first full preseason game, a 5-1 win over the Stars in Dallas. Bishop stopped 21 of 22 shots, saying his wrist was "not an issue."

    "This whole game, I felt like it was midseason," Bishop said. "So it was good. I'm ready to go."...

    Lightning goalie Ben Bishop stops a shot by Stars center Vernon Fiddler during the first period of Tuesday's preseason game in Dallas.
  5. Jonathan Drouin back on ice in first step toward return

    Lightning Strikes

    DALLAS — Lightning wing prospect Jonathan Drouin has been encouraged by progress with his fractured right thumb, making a small step Tuesday of taking the ice for practice in a red (no-contact) jersey.

    Though Drouin, 19, is still limited — he watched most drills Tuesday — he hopes to be ready by the regular-season opener, Oct. 9 against the Panthers.

    "I'm feeling better," he said. "There's still a little bit of pain, but we're going in the right direction. A couple weeks left and I'm sure I'll be fine by then. Progress has been really good."...

    Though Jonathan Drouin is still limited - he watched most of the drills Tuesday - he remains hopeful he'll be ready by the opener Oct. 9 against the Panthers. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]
  6. Lightning's Jason Garrison settles into new surroundings

    Lightning Strikes

    DALLAS — Turns out, Jason Garrison is versatile at the blue line — and on the red carpet.

    The new Lightning defenseman joined actor girlfriend Katie Cassidy (Arrow, Taken) last month at New York Fashion Week, catching a few shows and after parties. One day he went stylish with a tux, the next day a simple T-shirt, jeans and a cap.

    "I actually enjoy it," Garrison said. "And I kind of have a sort of interest in that kind of stuff. So it was a good little weekend getaway."...

    Jason Garrison and girlfriend Katie Cassidy, an actor, attended the U.S. Open women’s tennis final last month.
  7. Injured Drouin still hopeful for home opener

    Blog

    Lightning touted wing prospect Jonathan Drouin has been encouraged by the progress with his fractured right thumb, making a small step Tuesday of taking the ice for practice in a red (non-contact) jersey.

    Though Drouin is still limited - he watched most of the drills Tuesday - he's still hopeful he'll be ready by the opener Oct. 9 against the Panthers.

    "I'm feeling better," he said. "There's still a little bit of pain, but we're going in the right direction. A couple weeks left and I'm sure I'll be fine by then. Progress has been really good."...

  8. Lightning to focus on special teams toward end of camp

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — For most of Monday's Lightning practice, the focus was on special teams.

    The power play and penalty kill were mostly set aside in the first week or so in camp when there were 60-plus players. But now that the roster is down to 28, those units will be a major emphasis during this final week.

    "That's a big part of the game," coach Jon Cooper said. "That's something we're going to really focus on in the last three exhibition games, to get a feel for who is working well together, get some combinations."...

    Tyler Johnson noted  that most teams haven't set up their power play and there's more work to be done. [DIRK SHADD | Times]
  9. Fight for last Lightning roster spots intensifies

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Instead of heading to France, defenseman Luke Witkowski was getting ready Monday to board a bus to Naples, and he couldn't have been happier.

    Witkowski, 24, survived Saturday's large round of cuts, making him one of 28 players still in Tampa Bay's training camp in Estero for the final week. Twenty-five others had been reassigned to the American Hockey League's Syracuse, which holds its camp in Lyon, France....

    Luke Witkowski, left, will be one of several players given a long look during the Lightning's final three exhibition games, including Tuesday night in Dallas. [DIRK SHADD | Times]
  10. Cooper: "There are spots open"

    Blog

    Instead of heading to France, defenseman Luke Witkowski was getting ready to board a bus to Naples Monday afternoon, and he couldn't have been happier.

    Witkowski, 24, had survived Saturday's large round of cuts, making him one of 28 players still in Tampa Bay's training camp for the final week. Twenty-five others had been reassigned to Syracuse in the American Hockey League, which holds its camp in Lyon, France....

  11. Lightning minor-leaguers head to France for camp

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Coach Jon Cooper said if there ever was a year to get cut by the Lightning in training camp, it's this one.

    That's because those reassigned to AHL Syracuse on Saturday got one heck of a consolation prize: a trip to France on Sunday for a weeklong camp with the Crunch.

    "I think it should bring everyone's morale up rather quickly," Syracuse GM Julien BriseBois said....

    Wing Jerome Samson is among the players reassigned to the Lightning’s AHL Syracuse affiliate in time to spend a week in training camp in France, with sight-seeing in Paris planned.
  12. Big consolation prize: Crunch having camp in France

    Blog

    Coach Jon Cooper said if there was ever a year to get cut by the Lightning in training camp, it’s this one.

    That’s because those reassigned to Syracuse of the American Hockey League Saturday got one heck of a consolation prize; a trip to France Sunday for a week-long camp with the Crunch.

    “I think it should bring everyone’s morale up rather quickly,” Syracuse GM Julien BriseBois said....

  13. Vinik aims to keep Stamkos with Lightning

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Lightning owner Jeff Vinik says his goal is to roughly break even while building a team that can compete at the highest level year after year.

    And though Vinik said Saturday the organization is still losing "a little bit of money," he plans to continue spending at or near the salary cap, even as the cap likely will significantly increase from this season's $69 million in the next few years due to a new Canadian television deal. "How lucky am I to be an owner of a professional sports team and a professional hockey league team?" Vinik said. "And I want our fans and myself to enjoy giving our best shot to win."...

    HE MODELS, TOO: Steven Stamkos shows fans the Lightning’s new third jersey, mostly black with blue and white accents.
  14. Vinik on spending to cap, keeping Stamkos and being "world class"

    Blog

    Lightning owner Jeff Vinik says is goal is to roughly break even while building a team that can compete at the highest level year after year.

    And while Vinik said the organization is still losing "a little bit of money," he plans to continue his approach of spending at or near the salary cap, even as the cap will likely increase from $69 million in the next couple years due to a new Canadian television deal....

  15. Back in black: Lightning like new alternate jerseys

    Blog

    Lightning captain Steven Stamkos figured the fans would like the team's new alternate jerseys, which would make them look "leaner and meaner."

    And judging by the cheers from the 8,000-plus at Saturday's Fan Fest when Stamkos came on the ice in the new black sweater, he was right.

    Tampa Bay tapped into it's history, having used to wear the black jersey, while still keeping the "BOLTS" on the front. The players, at least, liked the look, which will be worn at 13 selected home games this season....