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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

Blogs:

Lightning Strikes

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  1. Lightning views tonight's game with Red Wings as a measuring stick

    Blog

    The Lightning enters tonight's showdown with the Red Wings trailing by just one point atop the Atlantic Division.

    But coach Jon Cooper made the pecking order pretty clear.

    "People can say what they want, we're playing the best team in the league, the Eastern Conference right here," Cooper said. "I think everything goes through them. They're the real deal. This is a game to see where you're at. That's how good I think these guys are."...

    Lightning right wing J.T. Brown is in, and veteran left wing Brenden Morrow is out.
  2. Lightning-Red Wings preview, 7:30 Thursday, Amalie Arena

    Lightning Strikes

    .tonight

    Lightning vs. Red Wings

    When/where: 7:30, Amalie Arena

    TV/radio: Sun Sports; 970-AM

    Key stats: The Red Wings have won six in a row and eight of 10, moving into first place in the Atlantic Division. … Detroit G Petr Mrazek has been impressive in filling in for injured All-Star Jimmy Howard, going 5-0-0 in his past six starts. … The Lightning has beaten Detroit five of the past six meetings, including a 4-3 shootout victory Nov. 9 in Detroit. … Detroit has the second-best power play in the league, at 25.3 percent. … Lightning G Ben Bishop, expected to start tonight, is 5-1-0 with a 1.69 goals-against average in seven career games against Detroit. … The Lightning has tied a club record with eight straight home wins and is 19-4-1 at Amalie Arena this season....

  3. Lightning tries to build power-play strength

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — With the Lightning power-play units in a funk, coach Jon Cooper said there "was a little fire in their bellies" during Wednesday's practice.

    It started with a switch. Touted rookie Jonathan Drouin joined the first group with captain Steven Stamkos, Ryan Callahan, Valtteri Filppula and Anton Stralman. The "Triplets" line of Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov were with Brett Connolly and Jason Garrison. The team worked five-on-four and six-on-five situations....

    Rookie Jonathan Drouin is put on the first power-play unit at Wednesday’s practice.
  4. Lightning try to get "mojo" back on power play

    Blog

    With the Lightning power play fizzling as of late, it switched up its personnel at Wednesday's practice.

    Touted rookie Jonathan Drouin joined the first unit with captain Steven Stamkos, Ryan Callahan and Valtteri Filppula. The "Triplets" line of Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov were with Brett Connolly.

    "Just trying to get the mojo back," assistant Steve Thomas said....

  5. Lightning loses at Hurricanes

    Lightning Strikes

    RALEIGH, N.C. — The Lightning figured it might be a little rusty coming out of the All-Star break.

    What it didn't envision was falling behind two goals in the first six minutes Tuesday against last-place Carolina, including giving up an own goal 22 seconds in. Both came on unlucky bounces, but that offered little solace.

    "Terrible," coach Jon Cooper said. "Unacceptable."

    Cooper called timeout, and the Lightning responded, but it wasn't enough in a 4-2 loss to the Hurricanes at the PNC Center....

    Hurricanes goalie Anton Khudobin deflects the puck as Justin Faulk (27) defends and Jordan Staal hurdles Steven Stamkos.
  6. Tyler Johnson returns for Lightning against Hurricanes

    Lightning Strikes

    RALEIGH, N.C. — For the past two days, Lightning C Tyler Johnson appeared unsure if he'd play Tuesday night.

    Johnson, 24, had pulled out of Sunday's All-Star Game due to a lingering lower-body injury. He participated in Monday's practice and Tuesday's morning skate, but said not to read too much into it — he'd be a game-time decision.

    But it wasn't a surprise to see Johnson in the lineup against the Hurricanes....

    Carolina Hurricanes' Victor Rask (49) defends as Tampa Bay Lightning's Tyler Johnson (9) skates for the puck during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Raleigh, N.C., Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome) NCGB101
  7. Tyler Johnson unsure of status tonight

    Blog

    While Lightning center Tyler Johnson participated in today's morning skate - including taking part in the line rushes - he still remained uncertain whether he'd be able to play tonight against the Hurricanes.

    Johnson, 24, the team's leading scorer, has dealt with a lower-body injury since Jan. 12, re-aggravating it Jan. 20. The five days off during the All-Star break helped, including passing on the All-Star game....

    Tyler Johnson, the Lightning's leading scorer, has dealt with a lower-body injury since Jan. 12, re-aggravating it Jan. 20.
  8. Tyler Johnson questionable for Lightning's Tuesday game

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — The Lightning was a little encouraged to see center Tyler Johnson back on the ice for Monday's practice, considering he missed Sunday's All-Star Game with a lingering lower-body injury.

    But coach Jon Cooper made it clear there's no guarantee Johnson plays tonight in Carolina.

    "Don't read into anything," Cooper said. "He'll be a game-time decision at best."

    Johnson, 24, the Lightning's leading scorer, suffered the injury Jan. 12 in Philadelphia, forcing him to miss the next game in Boston. Johnson played the final three games before the All-Star break but re-aggravated the injury late in the first period Jan. 20, when Vancouver's Alexander Edler tripped him....

    Lightning center Tyler Johnson aggravated a lingering lower-body injury last week.
  9. Tyler Johnson a game-time decision vs. Carolina

    Blog

    The Lightning was a little encouraged to see center Tyler Johnson back on the ice for Monday's practice, considering he missed Sunday's All-Star game due to a lingering lower-body injury.

    But coach Jon Cooper made it clear there's no guarantee Johnson plays Tuesday night in Carolina.

    "Don't read into anything," Cooper said. "He'll be a game-time decision at best."

    Johnson, 24, the Lightning's leading scorer, said the five days of rest helped his injury, which he suffered Jan. 12 in Philadelphia and reaggravated in Jan. 20 game against Vancouver. But it's still "there," which is why he pulled out of the All-Star game. Johnson did enjoy the festivities, though....

  10. Why doesn't NHL market Steven Stamkos better?

    Lightning Strikes

    Lightning captain Steven Stamkos seemingly has it all.

    He is one of the best hockey players in the world. He has looks, personality. Plus, he's humble.

    "As far as being likeable as an athlete, Steven is off the charts," said the NHL's chief marketing officer, Brian Jennings. "He's a terrific young guy."

    Then why hasn't Stamkos, 24, a marketer's dream, been promoted more by the league? Though Stamkos has established himself on the ice — a two-time Rocket Richard Trophy winner as the league's top goal scorer — he enters tonight's All-Star Game in Columbus, Ohio, with a small national profile. He's not even one of the four players on the cover of the game program. ...

    Steven Stamkos
  11. Steven Stamkos hopes to sign new Lightning deal

    Lightning Strikes

    It's no secret that captain Steven Stamkos loves playing in Tampa and for the Lightning.

    But Friday, Stamkos, 24, made his strongest indication yet that he plans to stay with the Lightning long term. He said at the NHL All-Star Game media day in Columbus, Ohio, that he hopes to sign a contract extension this summer, one year before he could become an unrestricted free agent.

    Stamkos can't sign until July 1....

    Steven Stamkos speaks during Media Availability for the 2015 NHL All-Star Weekend at the Nationwide Arena Friday in Columbus, Ohio. [Getty Images]
  12. Lightning's Jonathan Drouin set for NHL skills competition

    Lightning Strikes

    Lightning rookie wing Jonathan Drouin enjoyed watching the All-Star Skills Competition as a kid.

    Saturday, he'll be a part of it.

    Drouin, 19, was one of six rookies selected to participate in the event (7 p.m., NBCSN) which is a precursor to Sunday's All-Star game at Nationwide Arena in Columbus. He said his parents will be in the stands to see it.

    "It's exciting to be a part of it, all those great players that will be there," Drouin said. "It's going to be a fun couple days."...

    Jonathan Drouin was one of six rookies selected to participate in the All-Star Skills Competition. [Getty Images]
  13. Steven Stamkos says "plan" is to sign extension with Lightning

    Blog

    It's no secret that captain Steven Stamkos loves playing in Tampa, and for the Lightning.

    Stamkos, drafted No. 1 overall by Tampa Bay in 2008, has become the face of the franchise. And on Friday, Stamkos, 24, made his strongest comments yet that he plans to stay with the Lightning for a long time.

    Stamkos said at All-Star media day in Columbus that he envisions signing an extension this summer, one year before he'd become an unrestricted free agent, like Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane did with Chicago....

  14. Lightning heads into break on high after topping Canucks

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Veteran center Brian Boyle couldn't put a finger on why the Lightning has been so good at Amalie Arena this season.

    "I don't know what it is," he said. "We've got a little swagger at home, which is obviously a good thing."

    That swagger paid off again in Tuesday's 4-1 victory over the Canucks in front of 18,517, which helped Tampa Bay tie a franchise record with eight straight home wins....

    Lightning forward Valtteri Filppula celebrates his goal during the second period which breaks a scoreless deadlock.
  15. Witkowski makes NHL debut for Lightning

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — D Luke Witkowski said he had happy nerves heading into Tuesday's NHL debut.

    "I couldn't even fall asleep in the pregame nap," he said.

    But once Witkowski stepped on the ice for his first shift, it felt like "just another hockey game." And it showed with Witkowski, 24, delivering a solid performance in 14:21.

    "He did everything we asked him," coach Jon Cooper said. "I thought he was safe, he made all the plays he had to make, never got himself in trouble. I really didn't notice him that much, which is a great sign."...

    OUT OF ACTION: Matt Carle, left, will miss at least six weeks after abdominal surgery. Luke Witkowski debuted Tuesday in his place.