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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 says 'compete level' must improve

    Lightning Strikes

    MONTREAL — After the Lightning lost its second straight game Saturday — with an uncharacteristically low compete level — veteran center Brain Boyle put it simply:

    "We've got to right the ship quick."

    The Lightning typically does. It is the only team in the NHL to have not lost three in a row all season. And Tampa Bay needs that kind of resiliency tonight in a Bell Centre showdown with Eastern Conference-leading Montreal, which is three points ahead of the Lightning for first place in the Atlantic Division with each team having six games to play....

    Lightning defenseman Nikita Nesterov clears the puck from the goal line against the Red Wings on Saturday in a 4-0 loss, Tampa Bay’s second straight. The Lightning is the only team that hasn’t lost three in a row this season.
  2. Paquette day-to-day; Marchessault and Witkowski recalled


    With injuries to two key regulars - center Cedric Paquette (lower body) and defenseman Jason Garrison (upper body), the Lightning are recalling forward Jonathan Marchessault and defenseman Luke Witkowski from AHL Syracuse.

    Marchessault and Witkowski are expected to join the Lightning for its game against Montreal Monday.

    The encouraging news for the Lightning is that Paquette is considered just day-to-day; it certainly looked a lot worse when his left leg collided with the post while he prevented an empty-net goal late in Saturday's game. Paquette traveled with the team to Montreal....

  3. Lightning-Canadiens preview, 7:30 Monday, Bell Centre

    Lightning Strikes


    Lightning at Canadiens

    When/where: 7:30, Bell Centre, Montreal

    TV/radio: Sun Sports; 970-AM

    Key stats: The Canadiens hold a three-point edge over the Lightning for first place in the Atlantic Division. But Tampa Bay has won the teams' first four meetings this season, including both in Montreal. … Canadiens G Carey Price is having an MVP-caliber season (41-15-5, 1.68 GAA, nine shutouts). But Price is 0-3-1 with a 3.29 GAA in four starts against the Lightning this season. … Lightning G Ben Bishop, who has lost back-to-back starts, is 9-1-2 with a 1.42 GAA in 13 career games against Montreal....

  4. Lightning Nuts & Bolts: Killorn, Sustr face off for college bragging rights

    Lightning Strikes

    Short shift with Nikita Kucherov

    Favorite TV show: House Hunters

    Must-see movie: That Ashton Kutcher movie Spread.

    Favorite player growing up: Sergei Federov

    You followed the Red Wings' "Russian Five?": Yes. I had a poster on my wall.

    Most prized memorabilia: The puck from my first goal.

    What would you do if you weren't a hockey player: I'd play soccer. My father used to play in school. That's what I did ever summer....

    Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov (86) works to play the puck while on the ice against Nashville Predators in the first period during preseason hockey at the Amalie Arena in Tampa (09/23/14).
  5. Signs point to deep Lightning playoff run

    Lightning Strikes

    DETROIT — Though the Lightning didn't clinch a playoff berth Saturday, that appears merely a formality.

    Tampa Bay will be in the playoffs. The biggest question that remains is how far it can go once it gets there.

    In one word: deep.

    This team is noticeably better — and more playoff-ready — than the one that got swept in the first round by the Canadiens last April....

    The Lightning is counting on goalie Ben Bishop being healthy for the playoffs. Bishop missed last year’s first-round sweep by the Canadiens with a dislocated elbow suffered near the end of the regular season.
  6. Flurry of goals allowed by Lightning concerns Cooper

    Lightning Strikes

    DETROIT — Lightning coach Jon Cooper said one concern he has is a trend of allowing goals in spurts.

    Tuesday against Florida, the Lightning gave up two goals in 18 seconds but pulled out a 4-3 come-from-behind win. Against Nashville on Thursday, the Predators scored twice in 40 seconds in a 3-2 Tampa Bay loss.

    Then, in the Lightning's 4-0 loss to the Red Wings on Saturday, Detroit racked up three goals in four minutes in the second period to blow open a scoreless game....

    Detroit Red Wings center Gustav Nyquist, left, scores against Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Ben Bishop (30) as Matt Carle (25) defends in the second period of an NHL hockey game in Detroit, Saturday, March 28, 2015. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) MIPS109
  7. Lightning battles injuries, loses to Detroit

    Lightning Strikes

    DETROIT — The Lightning fell 4-0 to the Red Wings on Saturday afternoon, missing another chance to clinch a playoff spot.

    But more important, Tampa Bay lost two regulars to injury.

    Veteran defenseman Jason Garrison suffered an upper-body injury early in the first period and headed back to Tampa after the game to be evaluated. There were encouraging early reports on center Cedric Paquette, whose left leg bent awkwardly around a goal post after he crashed into it to prevent an empty-net goal. The crash looked ugly. Paquette's status for Monday against the Canadiens was uncertain....

    Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Jason Garrison (5) leaves the ice after being injured in the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Detroit Red Wings in Detroit Saturday, March 28, 2015. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) MIPS104
  8. Lightning-Red Wings preview, 2 Saturday, Detroit

    Lightning Strikes


    Lightning at Red Wings

    When/where: 2, Joe Louis Arena, Detroit

    TV/radio: Sun Sports; 970-AM

    Key stats: The Red Wings are struggling, having lost six of their past eight, but are holding on to third place — an automatic playoff spot — in the Atlantic Division. … The Lightning has beaten Detroit in all three meetings this season and seven of their past eight overall. Tampa Bay has won eight of 11. … Lightning G Ben Bishop, expected to start, is 7-1-0 with a 1.53 GAA in nine career games against Detroit. … G Petr Mrazek was expected to start for Detroit. … Red Wings C Pavel Datsyuk, who has missed five games with a lower-body injury, hoped to return today....

  9. Lightning tries 6-foot-7 Boyle as power-play boost

    Lightning Strikes

    DETROIT — The Lightning spent most of its short practice Friday working on its struggling power play, with one big wrinkle.

    There was 6-foot-7, 244-pound center Brian Boyle on the first unit, stationed in front of the net.

    "The goalie can't stop what he can't see," wing Brenden Morrow said. "That's no secret."

    The Lightning believes it will offer a different look as it starts a five-game road trip today against the Red Wings. Assistant coach Steve Thomas said the power play, which entered Friday ranked 19th in the league (18.1 percent), is being "too cute," trying too many low-percentage seam passes. So the focus for the first unit — also with Steven Stamkos, Alex Killorn, Valtteri Filppula and Anton Stralman — will be quick shots, and they don't have to be the "bomb one-timer," Thomas said....

    With 6-foot-7 Brian Boyle, above, taking up space in front on the net on the power play, “a shot from anywhere isn’t a bad shot,” first-unit member Alex Killorn says. “So I think it’s going to help a lot.”
  10. Lightning falls to Predators (with video)

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — The Lightning felt it probably deserved a better fate in Thursday's 3-2 loss to the Predators.

    "Let's not kid ourselves. We played a good team, and we thought we were the better team," captain Steven Stamkos said.

    For the most part, Tampa Bay was, holding the 100-point Predators to 19 shots. The Lightning had the puck for what coach Jon Cooper estimated was three-quarters of the game. It killed off five power plays, including a double minor....

    The Predators’ Mike Santorelli, left, challenges goalie Ben Bishop during the second period, which ends with Bishop benched.
  11. Cedric Paquette returns for Lightning

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — C Cedric Paquette returned to the lineup Thursday, convinced the upper-body injury that has bothered him since February — and had sidelined him the previous six games — is behind him.

    "I'm ready to go," Paquette said.

    And, for at least one day, C Vladislav Namestnikov stayed with Tampa Bay, though coach Jon Cooper said that could change today. Namestnikov, on an emergency recall, has to be returned to AHL Syracuse or he'll be the third of four allotted post-trade-deadline callups. But with LW Brenden Morrow day to day with an upper-body injury, Namestnikov remained, playing in the 3-2 loss to the Predators and scoring....

    Lightning center Cedric Paquette celebrates the first-period goal of Vladislav Namestnikov (not pictured) against the Predators.
  12. Paquette back in lineup; Namestnikov staying - for now


    Lightning center Cedric Paquette will return to the lineup tonight, having missed six games with an upper body injury.

    "I'm ready to go," Paquette said. "Today is the day."

    And, as of today, coach Jon Cooper said there are no plans to send C Vladislav Namestnikov, on an emergeny recall, back to AHL Syracuse, but that could change by Friday; Cooper hinted there might be another short-term injury among his forward group (possibly Brenden Morrow)....

    Lightning center Cedric Paquette will return to the lineup tonight, having missed six games with an upper body injury.
  13. Lightning getting hang of rallies

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Veteran wing Brenden Morrow said he isn't sure when it happened, or how exactly.

    But after spending the first five months of the season struggling when trailing after two periods — 1-17-2 — the Lightning recently has become the comeback kids.

    "It turned around pretty quick," Morrow said.

    Tuesday's 4-3 win over the Panthers was the third time this month Tampa Bay rallied from a third-period deficit, twice earning a victory and the other forcing overtime in Boston to get a point with a shootout loss....

    Brenden Morrow and his teammates are 2-0-1 when trailing after two periods this month; they entered March 1-17-2.
  14. Lightning rallies to beat Panthers

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — As he walked out of the locker room to his post-game news conference Tuesday, coach Jon Cooper got a charge out of seeing Rays star third baseman Evan Longoria — in a Steven Stamkos jersey — getting a tour from the Lightning captain.

    "I'm pretty fired up right now," Cooper said.

    If the local celebrity sighting wasn't enough, the Lightning's thrilling 4-3 come-from-behind victory over the Panthers should have gotten Cooper plenty pumped....

    Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Ryan Callahan (24) is mobbed by his team as they celebrates his goal as he breaks the tie with the eventual game winning goal going up 4 to 3 against the Florida Panthers during third period action at the Amalie Arena in Tampa Tuesday evening (03/24/15). From left is defenseman Victor Hedman (77), Callahan, center Steven Stamkos (91) and center Alex Killorn (17).
  15. D Jason Garrison peaking with Lightning

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Associate coach Rick Bowness knew D Jason Garrison would be a big addition, having coached him in Vancouver.

    But after watching Garrison, 30, this season, his first since getting acquired from the Canucks in June, Bowness said the six-year veteran has been better than advertised.

    "This is the best I've seen Gary play," Bowness said.

    Garrison has four goals and 26 assists and his plus-28 rating coming in was the best among NHL defensemen, including plus-11 his previous 11 games. While Garrison boasts a big left-handed shot, his main contribution has been his calm, steady defense. The 6-foot-3, 222-pound native of White Rock, British Columbia, plays heavy in the corners and is key cog on the penalty kill; his 94 blocked shots rank second on the team....

    Tampa Bay Lightning's Jason Garrison celebrates his goal during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Boston Bruins, Sunday, March 22, 2015, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson) FLMC107