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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's Tyler Johnson lives his fantasy life

    Lightning Strikes


    Tyler Johnson grew up playing pickup hockey, dreaming of scoring a winning goal in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final.

    "I think everyone has," he said.

    But the Lightning center didn't pretend to be Mario Lemieux or Marty St. Louis. His was always a first-person fairy tale.

    "Because you always want to see yourself in that position," he said.

    There were doubters. The undersized, undrafted forward had to fight his way into the NHL. But Thursday, Johnson became the talk of the league after scoring the overtime winner in the Lightning's season-saving 3-2 playoff win over Detroit, setting the stage for Game 5 today at Amalie Arena, the first-round series tied 2-2....

    Tyler Johnson, 5 feet 8, gets a squeeze from Brian Boyle, 6 feet 7, after his OT winner against the Red Wings in Game 4.
  2. Lightning tops Wings in OT, ties series at 2 (w/ video)

    Lightning Strikes

    DETROIT — The Lightning was done.

    Trailing by two goals late in the third period of a must-win Game 4 against the Red Wings on Thursday, Tampa Bay appeared in danger of slipping to the brink of playoff elimination. Joe Louis Arena was going wild, octopi flying onto the ice.

    "It didn't look too bright," defenseman Victor Hedman said.

    But then the "Triplets" took over. Tampa Bay's best line saved the game — and potentially the season — in a series-swinging 3-2 overtime victory. Tyler Johnson's two goals, including the winner 2:25 into the extra session, has Tampa Bay headed home for Saturday's Game 5 tied 2-2 instead of staring down a 3-1 hole....

    “Triplets” line member Ondrej Palat jumps into Lightning teammates’ arms after linemate Tyler Johnson scores the winner 2:25 into overtime. In despair on the ice is the Detroit’s Darren Helm.
  3. Drouin, Garrison enter Lightning lineup

    Lightning Strikes

    DETROIT — With the Lightning entering Thursday's Game 4 needing a win to pull even in their playoff series with the Red Wings, coach Jon Cooper hinted there could be lineup changes.

    There certainly were.

    Rookie LW Jonathan Drouin, a healthy scratch for the first three games of the first-round series, made his playoff debut in the Lightning's 3-2 overtime win, taking the spot of LW Brenden Morrow. ...

    DETROIT, MI - APRIL 23:  Jason Garrison #5 of the Tampa Bay Lightning tries to control the puck against Pavel Datsyuk #13 of the Detroit Red Wings in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Joe Louis Arena on April 23, 2015 in Detroit, Michigan. Tampa Bay won the game 3-2 in overtime to tie the series 2-2. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) 548281529
  4. Lightning: Charles Barkley's a fan

    Lightning Strikes

    Surprise fan of the day

    The Lightning, entering Thursday trailing its playoff series with the Red Wings 2-1, got a pep talk from an unexpected fan: Charles Barkley. The former NBA star and current TNT analyst wrapped up Wednesday's Inside the NBA show on TNT talking about hockey and said, "Come on, Tampa Bay. I haven't given up on you yet, Coach Coop." Jon Cooper met Barkley last year on a Lightning road trip in Los Angeles, and the two gained a mutual respect. "You have one perception of a guy on TV, and I grew up watching him play," Cooper said. "But after spending a few hours with the guy, I'll be honest. He's one of the greatest guys I've ever met. I marveled how he is with other people, the stories he told, how genuine he was. This is just the perfect example. I haven't spoken to him in six months, and for him to be following us and cheering for us, that shows he's a class act."...

  5. Cooper indicated there could be lineup changes for Game 4


    With the Lightning needing a win tonight in Game 4 against Detroit, trailing 2-1 in the best-of-seven series, coach Jon Cooper left the door open for potential tweaks to his lineup.

    "Could there be changes? Sure," he said.

    Cooper said he's liked how his team has played in the first three games. But there are a couple possibilities here. Defenseman Jason Garrison, out since March 28 with an upper body injury, said he'll be a "game-time" decision tonight. He hasn't been told if he's taking warm-ups....

    At forward, tonight would seem like a good opportunity to put in rookie wing Jonathan Drouin, who has been scratched the first three games.
  6. Charles Barkley gives Cooper/Lightning a shout-out


    With the Lightning heading into a must-win Game 4 tonight in Detroit, trailing 2-1 in the best-of-seven series, it got a shout-out from an unexpected fan:

    Charles Barkley.

    Barkley, the former NBA star and current TNT analyst, wrapped up Wednesday's "Inside the NBA" show talking about hockey, and put this out here:

    "Come on Tampa Bay. I haven't given up on you yet Coach Coop."...

    With the Lightning heading into a must-win Game 4 tonight in Detroit, trailing 2-1 in the best-of-seven series, it got a shout-out from an unexpected fan: Charles Barkley.
  7. Lightning tries to find its power play

    Lightning Strikes

    DETROIT — There's no sugar-coating this one: The Lightning power play needs to be better.

    Much better.

    In Tampa Bay's two losses in its first-round series against Detroit, it's a combined 0-for-13 on the power play, including 0-for-6 Tuesday in Game 3. The Lightning scored twice with the man advantage in Saturday's 5-1 Game 2 victory.

    "So you kind of do that math, you're looking at how these wins are chalking up, special teams do matter," coach Jon Cooper said....

    Tyler Johnson, front, one part of the Lightning’s “Triplets,” battles for the puck with the Wings’ Pavel Datsyuk in Game 3.
  8. Lightning-Wings: Joe Louis Arena crowd; playoff wave; Tyler Johnson, Ferraro teammates as kids

    Lightning Strikes

    Quote of the day

    "It felt like Game 7 deep in June."

    Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg, on the raucous crowd in Game 3 at Joe Louis Arena

    Perspective of the day

    Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said it's important not to ride the wave in the playoffs. "After Game 1 it was, 'Oh, Detroit has command.' After Game 2 it's Tampa, and now Detroit. We come back and win a game it's, 'Tampa has home ice now, it's in their favor.' "...

  9. Lightning understands 'magnitude' of Game 4 vs. Wings

    Lightning Strikes

    DETROIT — There's no question the Red Wings played their best game of the series in Tuesday's 3-0 win over the Lightning.

    "We looked like a real hockey team," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said.

    But the Lightning felt it didn't look — or play — like itself in a frustrating loss, which makes for easier adjustments heading into a near-must-win Game 4 tonight at Joe Louis Arena. Tampa Bay trails the best-of-seven series 2-1....

    Luke Glendening (41) celebrates his empty-net goal with his Red Wings teammate to close out Game 3’s shutout of the Lightning.
  10. Lightning confident heading into Game 4: 'It's far from over'


    There’s no question the Red Wings played their best game of the series in Tuesday’s 3-0 win over the Lightning.

    “We looked like a real hockey team,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said.

    But the Lightning felt it didn’t look - or play - like itself in a frustrating loss, which makes for easier adjustments heading into a must-win Game 4 Thursday at Joe Louis Arena. Tampa Bay trails the best-of-seven series 2-1....

    “Guys realize the magnitude of the next game,” captain Steven Stamkos said. “Not much needs to be said.”
  11. Lightning falls behind again in series with 3-0 loss (w/ video)

    Lightning Strikes

    DETROIT — Joe Louis Arena was rocking Tuesday night, the raucous sellout crowd waving their white towels and chanting in, um, colorful language.

    The Red Wings were relentless, taking it to Tampa Bay from the opening faceoff.

    The Lightning?

    "We weren't very good," captain Steven Stamkos said.

    Tampa Bay picked a bad time for a lackluster performance, its 3-0 loss letting Detroit take control of this best-of-seven first-round series. The Red Wings are up 2-1 with a must-win Game 4 for Tampa Bay coming Thursday....

    Lightning center Brian Boyle skates with the puck as Red Wings center Riley Sheahan defends during the first period. Tampa Bay, which beat Detroit three times out of four in the regular season, trails the series 2-1.
  12. Jonathan Drouin waiting for chance to contribute to Lightning in playoffs

    Lightning Strikes

    DETROIT — For Lightning rookie LW Jonathan Drouin, the waiting game continues.

    Drouin, who turned 20 on March 27, was a healthy scratch Tuesday in Game 3 against the Red Wings, the third straight game he sat out.

    Coach Jon Cooper indicated Drouin will play during the playoffs, but he wanted to ease the No. 3 overall pick in 2013 into an "eye-opening" experience.

    Plus, Cooper didn't want to a mess with a lineup that worked well the first two games....

    Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Jonathan Drouin (27) on the ice against the Philadelphia Flyers during second period action at the Amalie Arena in Tampa Thursday evening (10/30/31).
  13. Cooper: Drouin will play in playoffs


    Lightning rookie Jonathan Drouin will be a healthy scratch for tonight's Game 3, the third straight game he's sat out.

    But coach Jon Cooper said today that Drouin will get to play at some point during these playoffs. Cooper said he initially sat Drouin to ease him into an "eye-opening" experience, but now doesn't want to change a successful lineup.

    "Am I going to sit here and say, 'Jonathan Drouin is not going to play in the playoffs? Not a chance," Cooper said. "He's going to get in at some point. I know learning from last year, I remember (Nikita) Kucherov, he opened the round against Montreal, and (Richard) Panik. It's an eye opening experience for them and sometimes, whether I'm right or wrong in this regard, it's better to take a step back and watch what's going on before you get in there."...

    Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said today that Jonathan Drouin will get to play at some point during these playoffs.
  14. Lightning seeks at least a split in Detroit

    Lightning Strikes

    DETROIT — The Lightning is feeling pretty good after the first two games of its first-round series with the Red Wings.

    It has been arguably the better team in both, controlling play for large portions, dictating the action with its speed.

    But with a 5-1 victory Saturday clinching just a split at home, Tampa Bay still needs to steal at least one win on the road to take this best-of-seven series....

    Lightning goalie Ben Bishop hangs on for a save in the first period of Game 2, in which Tampa Bay evened its series against Detroit with a 5-1 victory.
  15. Jason Garrison progressing, but still doubtful for Game 3

    Lightning Strikes

    DETROIT — Lightning D Jason Garrison isn't likely to return to the lineup by tonight's Game 3 in Detroit.

    "Doubtful," coach Jon Cooper said. "He's probably out."

    But Garrison, sidelined with an upper-body injury since March 28, is encouraged with his progress, and it appears he could be back this week. Originally scheduled to be out 3-4 weeks, the four week mark is Saturday's Game 5. Cooper said after tonight, he'll be a "game-time decision" going forward....

    Lightning defenseman Jason Garrison, injured in this March 28 game against the Red Wings, is doubtful for Tuesday’s Game 3. [Associated Press]