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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 falls to Predators

    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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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) celebrates with his team at the bench 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).
  6. 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
  7. Paquette to return on road trip, Vasilevskiy starts tonight


    It looks like C Cedric Paquette won't be returning on this homestand.

    Paquette, who has missed five games with an upper body injury, continued to skate in a regular colored jersey this morning, but wasn't part of line rushes. Coach Jon Cooper said there's no update, but indicated Paquette would return on the upcoming five-game road trip, which begins Saturday in Detroit.

    When Paquette comes back, it'll make for a tough decision for the Lightning. C Vladislav Namestnikov, on an emergency recall, has been playing really well. But in order for Namestnikov not to count towards the four alotted post-deadline call-ups, he'd have to get returned to AHL Syracuse when Paquette is ready. The Lightning could also keep Namestnikov up, giving them just one call-up remaining. Cooper said Sunday that Namestnikov is making his case to stick around....

    Craig Paquette has missed five games with an upper body injury.
  8. Lightning-Panthers capsule preview

    Lightning Strikes


    Lightning vs Panthers

    When/where: 7:30, Amalie Arena

    TV/radio: Sun Sports, 970-AM

    Key stats: The Panthers (33-25-14) are fighting for their playoff lives, entering Monday four points out of the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. C Brandon Pirri has four goals in the past five games. Veteran RW Jaromir Jagr has two goals and five assists in 10 games since joining the Panthers. The Panthers beat the Lightning 4-3 March 1, with Tampa Bay winning 3-2 in overtime in the season opener Oct. 9. G Ben Bishop was named the NHL's third star for last week for going 3-0 with a 2.00 GAA. He has won nine of his past 11 starts....

  9. A rare fight, but Steven Stamkos gets it right

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Former Lightning enforcer Andre Roy said Steven Stamkos won't receive many style points when it comes to his fight Sunday with Boston's Brad Marchand.

    "I don't think either of us got a shot in," Stamkos admitted.

    But Roy believed the Lightning captain struck the right tone in quickly tackling Marchand, a feisty agitator, to the ice.

    "He did it right," said Roy, who is now an analyst for RDS, a Canadian sports network. "He went in and said, 'You little rat, that's enough!' He just grabbed him and whipped him on the ice. It was short and sweet, like he wanted."...

    Lightning center and captain Steven Stamkos fights Bruins left wing Brad Marchand on Sunday.
  10. Ben Bishop named NHL's Third Star for last week


    Lightning goalie Ben Bishop was named the NHL's Third Star of the Week.

    Bishop went 3-0 with a 2.00 goals against average and a .935 save percentage with big wins over the Canadiens, Red Wings and Bruins. A Vezina Trophy finalist last season, Bishop has been on the top of his game in recent weeks, winning eight of his last 10 starts.

    Bishop is 36-11-4 with a 2.31 GAA, .916 save percentage and three shutouts in 55 games. He needs just one more victory to tie the club record he set last season....

    Lightning goalie Ben Bishop was named the NHL's Third Star of the Week.
  11. Namestnikov strengthens case to stay with Lightning

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — C Vladislav Namestnikov is going to make it hard for the Lightning to send him back to AHL Syracuse.

    Namestnikov, 22, continues to play well, racking up two points in Sunday's 5-3 win over the Bruins, including scoring a goal, his sixth of the season and third since a March 3 callup.

    But with C Cedric Paquette (upper-body injury) possibly coming back this week, Namestnikov would need to get returned to the Crunch in order for his callup to remain an emergency one and not count toward the team's four allotted post-trade-deadline callups. Tampa Bay has used two....

    Vladislav Namestnikov has a goal, assist against the Bruins.
  12. Lightning beats Bruins for first time since 2012

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Steven Stamkos suggested it was merely coincidence that his teammates scored twice in the minute after his first-period fight Sunday with Boston's Brad Marchand.

    But make no mistake, the sight of the captain dropping his gloves then wrestling the Bruins agitator to the ice was the catalyst in the Lightning's cathartic 5-3 victory, its first over Boston since March 13, 2012. After Stamkos' second career bout — the first was in 2008 — the sellout crowd of 19,204 at Amalie Arena erupted. So did the Lightning bench. The Superman theme song played as Stamkos went to the penalty box....

    Lightning goalie Ben Bishop and defenseman Victor Hedman work to keep the Bruins’ Carl Soderberg from scoring.
  13. Lightning Nuts & Bolts: Vasy likes Stephen Hawking; Cut for a Cure day

    Lightning Strikes

    Short shift With G Andrei Vasilevskiy

    Must-see movie: Unbroken and The Theory of Everything, about Stephen Hawking.

    Favorite American music? In my iPhone … 99 percent of it is American. Maybe a couple Russian tracks. I like Coldplay.

    Go-to date night: My wife, Ksenia, and I like cooking. She cooks for me, does it very well. I like borsch soup; it's Russian....

    Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy (88) during a break in the action while in net against the Nashville Predators in the second period during preseason hockey at the Amalie Arena in Tampa (09/23/14).
  14. Hedman puts the jump in Lightning

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Captain Steven Stamkos is the Lightning's best player, its biggest star.

    Goalie Ben Bishop might be its most valuable, especially come playoff time.

    But often the player that stirs the drink for the Lightning is defenseman Victor Hedman, the 6-foot-6 230-pound Swede who can spark the highest-scoring offense with his skating ability.

    "If you watch, a lot of the way our team plays, it's the way 'Heddy' is going," coach Jon Cooper said. "When he gets his legs moving and he's engaged, our team kind of feeds off that. And for the most part, that's the way Heddy's been. That's why we've had some success."...

    When defenseman Victor Hedman, above, “gets his legs moving and he’s engaged, our team kind of feeds off that,” coach Jon Cooper says. “That’s why we’ve had some success.”
  15. Lightning's Drouin earns shot on top line

    Lightning Strikes


    Though rookie wing Jonathan Drouin entered this season as the game's top prospect, the Lightning made it clear this would be a meritocracy.

    "That's the first thing they told me, nothing is really given," Drouin said. "You're going to earn your ice time, earn your power play."

    It's been a long, humbling process for the 2013 No. 3 overall draft pick — one that has included being a healthy scratch four times — but Drouin is finally reaping the rewards of his hard work. ...

    “I had to prove that I could fit,” says rookie Jonathan Drouin, who has been moved to the top line with Steven Stamkos.