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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. Matt Peca signs with Lightning, "good chance" Wilcox does, too


    The Lightning locked up one of its top college prospects Wednesday, signing Quinnipiac University center Matt Peca to a two-year, two-way deal.

    Peca gets a tryout contract with the AHL Syracuse, giving the Crunch a big boost for a potential playoff run.

    Am also hearing that Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman has been in talks with University of Minnesota star goalie Adam Wilcox, and there's a "good chance" he signs with Tampa Bay. Per the CBA, Wilcox could become an unrestricted free agent since it's been for years since he was drafted (sixth round, 2011). ...

  2. Lightning falls at Toronto, Stamkos upset

    Lightning Strikes

    TORONTO — Tuesday's game had letdown written all over it.

    The Lightning was coming off an emotional, 5-3 win over the Canadiens the night before, having clinched a playoff berth and season sweep of its rivals.

    "We laid a lot on the table," coach Jon Cooper said.

    Tampa Bay rarely has trouble showing up against top teams. But it tends to play down to its competition, and Tuesday's 3-1 loss to the struggling Leafs in a quiet-as-a-library Air Canada Centre was an example. For the second time in three games, captain Steven Stamkos said the compete level wasn't good enough....

    Maple Leafs goalie James Reimer, right, stops a shot in front of forward Ryan Callahan, who had Tampa Bay’s lone goal.
  3. Slater Koekkoek makes debut with Lightning

    Lightning Strikes

    TORONTO — The Lightning was encouraged Tuesday that D Victor Hedman is just day to day with a lower body injury, considering its already banged-up blueline.

    Coach Jon Cooper said Hedman might play by the end of this road trip.

    "We'll see how he recovers," Cooper said. "Do I think it's something that's playoff-implication serious? Not whatsoever."

    D Slater Koekkoek was with AHL Syracuse watching Monday's Lightning-Canadiens game and saw Hedman left with an injury. His buddies told him to keep his phone on....

    Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Dion Phaneuf (3) trips up Tampa Bay Lightning forward Slater Koekkoek (29) during second period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, March 31, 2015.  (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Nathan Denette) NSD108
  4. Slater Koekkoek called up: "A dream come true."


    Slater Koekkoek had just finished watching the Lightning-Canadiens game Monday night, and noticed D Victor Hedman was out with an injury.

    Koekkoek, 21, a defenseman with the AHL Syracuse Crunch, said a couple buddies teased him, telling him to keep his phone on.

    "Luckily I did," he said with a smile.

    With Hedman (lower body) day-to-day, Koekkoek was called up and will make his NHL debut tonight against the Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre. Assistant GM Julien BriseBois gave Koekkoek the unforgettable first call....

    Slater Koekkoek, 21, the 10th overall pick in 2012, had been playing well for the Crunch in his first pro season, with five goals and 24 points (plus-10) in 66 games.
  5. Lightning clinches playoff berth by topping Canadiens again

    Lightning Strikes

    MONTREAL — Now this sweep must feel pretty sweet for the Lightning.

    Sure, it doesn't take the sting away from how the Canadiens swept Tampa Bay out of the first round of the playoffs last spring.

    But the Lightning, believing it has more to play for, savored clinching a playoff spot Monday with a 5-3 win over Montreal on the same ice where its season ended last year. Tampa Bay completed a five-game sweep of the regular-season series too....

    Tampa Bay forward Jonathan Drouin beats Montreal goalie Carey Price in the second period for his first goal since December.
  6. Jason Garrison injury hurts, and Tyler Johnson sits out too

    Lightning Strikes

    MONTREAL — The Lightning blueline received another big blow Monday as veteran D Jason Garrison will be out 3-4 weeks with an upper-body injury.

    That means Garrison, who got hurt early in Saturday's game against Detroit, could miss part or all of the first round of the playoffs.

    But that's not all.

    All-Star C Tyler Johnson sat out Monday's game against Montreal — and is day to day — with an upper body injury, and D Andrej Sustr is out 1-2 weeks with an upper body injury. C Cedric Paquette, who looked to suffer a serious left leg injury Saturday, played Monday....

    Lightning center Tyler Johnson competes against the Sabres at Amalie Arena on Jan. 9. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]
  7. Lightning-Maple Leafs preview

    Lightning Strikes

  8. Jason Garrison out 3-4 weeks, big blow among Lightning injuries


    The Lightning blueline was delivered another big blow Monday as veteran defenseman Jason Garrison will be out 3-4 weeks with an upper-body injury, coach Jon Cooper said this morning.

    Garrison, who suffered the injury early in Saturday's game, had gone back to Tampa to get re-evaluated Sunday. That means Garrison could miss the first round of the playoffs.

    But that's not all.

    Cooper said All-Star center Tyler Johnson is out tonight - and is day-to-day - with an upper body injury, defenseman Andrej Sustr is out 1-2 weeks with an upper body injury. The most amazing thing is that center Cedric Paquette, who looked to suffer a serious left leg injury Saturday, skated in today's practice and is a game-time decision....

    Jason Garrison, who suffered the injury early in Saturday's game, could miss the first round of the playoffs.
  9. 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.
  10. 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....

  11. 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....

  12. 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).
  13. 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.
  14. 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
  15. 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....

    Red Wings center Gustav Nyquist, back, puts the puck past Lightning goalie Ben Bishop for a 3-0 led in the second period as Matt Carle tries in vain to get his stick in the way. Detroit gets all three goals in four minutes.