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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 tops Kings in shootout (w/ video)

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — You figured Wednesday's game would be tight and low scoring.

    The Lightning won plenty of those en route to the Stanley Cup final over the summer. And lately, offensively-challenged Tampa Bay had no choice. After two periods without a goal, coach Jon Cooper said the message was simple:

    "This is a playoff game," he said.

    But the way goalie Ben Bishop played, it sure looked like it, the Lightning finally prevailing in a shootout, a 2-1 win over the Kings in front of 19,092 at Amalie Arena. ...

    Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper on the bench with his team during first period action at the Amalie Arena in Tampa Wednesday evening (11/25/15).
  2. Agents in Tampa, but no news on Stamkos talks

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — There was a bit of intrigue Wednesday as C Steven Stamkos' agents from Newport Sports were in town, in the stands watching the morning skate.

    Stamkos, 25, is in the final year of his contract, his uncertain status a major mystery in the hockey world.

    But the presence of agents Don Meehan and Mark Guy didn't mean Stamkos is any closer to a deal. GM Steve Yzerman wasn't even in Tampa on Wednesday. Guy said they were in town for an annual Thanksgiving trip, watching several clients on the Lightning and Kings....

    Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) goes down while battling for positioning against Los Angeles Kings center Andy Andreoff (15) during first period action at the Amalie Arena in Tampa Wednesday evening (11/25/15).
  3. Podcast: Pierre McGuire says Stamkos contract can be 'problem'


    NBCSN hockey analyst Pierre McGuire said he's seen most of the Lightning games this season.

    "A big fan of the way they play," McGuire said.

    While McGuire is more widely known by most hockey fans for his role between the benches for NBCSN broadcasts, he's spent three decades in the NHL, including serving as an assistant coach on the Penguins back-to-back Stanley Cup teams in the early 1990s....

  4. Johnson could return tonight: 'I want to be better'


    Center Tyler Johnson could return to the lineup tonight, giving the Lightning a boost against the Kings.

    "We're better team with Johnny on the ice," coach Jon Cooper said. "He's playing this week at some point, hopefully it's tonight."

    Johnson (upper body) said he's feeling good, and him playing after missing three games is up to the coaches/doctors.

    "It's always hard to miss games," Johnson said. "But it's kind of nice to have a break in a way too, I feel a bit refreshed and ready to go. Watching the team battle like they have, it lights a fire under everyone. I want to be part of that."...

  5. Steven Stamkos scoring more and Lightning needs it more than ever

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — You can count on one hand the number of players in the world who can score a goal like Steven Stamkos did in Saturday's second period.

    Okay, maybe two fingers.

    "The other guy plays in Washington," Kings center Anze Kopitar said, referring to the Capitals' Alex Ovechkin. "You've got to pay special attention."

    Pay attention to how Stamkos, 25, scored, beating Ducks goaltender Frederik Andersen, and it shows how the Lightning captain is gaining confidence, much like his team, which carries a two-game winning streak into tonight's game against the Kings....

    Lightning center Steven Stamkos has 11 goals this season.
  6. Lightning getting healthier, Johnson close to return


    The Lightning looked a lot healthier in Tuesday's practice, with Tyler Johnson (upper body), Jonathan Drouin (undisclosed) and Cedric Paquette (upper body) all participating in regular-colored jerseys.

    Johnson, who has missed the last three games, appears the closest to returning, skating with Nikita Kucherov and Vladislav Namestnikov today. Johnson seemed optimistic about playing Wednesday against the Kings, saying it depends on what the trainers/coaches think....

  7. Callups reenergize Lightning

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Apparently, the Lightning didn't need a shakeup trade to turn its fortunes around.

    All it took was a spark from Syracuse.

    Desperate for wins, and down several regular forwards, the Lightning received a much-needed boost thanks to call-ups from AHL Syracuse. The prospects, such as Jonathan Marchessault and Joel Vermin, injected life in the Lightning (10-9-3), which has won two straight games for the first time since starting 3-0....

    Joel Vermin, right, made his NHL debut Thursday against the Rangers and played in Tampa Bay’s past two wins.
  8. Lightning send down Blunden, Angelidis, Witkowski


    With wing Ryan Callahan back, and Tyler Johnson close, the Lightning reassigned some of its depth back to AHL Syracuse Sunday.

    Defenseman Luke Witkowski and forwards Mike Angelidis and Mike Blunden were sent to Syracuse.

    Callahan (lower body) returned to the lineup Saturday, with Johnson (upper body) potentially able to come back by the team's next game, Wednesday against the Kings. For now, forwards Joel Vermin and Jonathan Marchessault remain with the Lightning, but their status will depend on the recovery of wing Jonathan Drouin (undisclosed) and Cedric Paquette (upper body), who continue to skate but are not cleared for contact....

  9. Bishop, Lightning shut out Ducks (w/ video)

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Goalie Ben Bishop said he believes in the "law of averages."

    Having lost several hard-luck starts for the Lightning this season because of little goal support — including having a five-game losing streak — he figured it'd all balance out.

    What a better day for that to start than Saturday, Bishop's 29th birthday.

    Bishop was sparkling again in picking up his first shutout of the season, a 5-0 victory over the Ducks in front of an electric crowd of 19,092 at Amalie Arena....

    Lightning goalie Ben Bishop, guarded by Andrej Sustr (62), covers the puck after a hard charge to the net by Ducks center Ryan Kesler (17) during the first period. Bishop, on his 29th birthday, makes 30 saves for his first shutout of the season. “Nice personally to have a little puck luck,” he says. “Probably because it’s my birthday.”
  10. Stamkos turns to Hall of Famer for scoring tips (w/ video)

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — When you're an elite goal scorer like C Steven Stamkos, who do you ask for pointers?

    A Hall of Famer, of course.

    Stamkos, 25, has joined a growing list of NHL stars to hire Adam Oates as a consultant this season. The Capitals' Alex Ovechkin, the Wild's Ryan Suter and Zach Parise, and the Oilers' Teddy Purcell are also among Oates' clients....

    Steven Stamkos, center back, has his arms open wide for Jonathan Marchessault after scoring against the Ducks.
  11. Lightning Nuts & Bolts: Ready for the All-Star Game experiment

    Lightning Strikes

    Short shift w/RW Jonathan Marchessault

    Most prized memorabilia: I've got all the jerseys (for the teams) I've played for (as a) pro. I got all them and signed them. When I have a house, I'm going to have a nice basement with all of them.

    Favorite dad activity: We love taking it easy in the afternoon, going outside and playing with them (James, 19 months, and Victoria, 1 month). My little guy, James, he loves playing hockey; has his hockey stick in his hands 24/7 pretty much. Fun to shoot with him....

  12. Joel Vermin models play after Ondrej Palat (w/ video)

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Joel Vermin's NHL debut Thursday night was seamless, Lightning coaches saying the 2013 seventh-round draft pick looked like he had already played in the league.

    And Vermin, 23, may have fellow wing Ondrej Palat, 24, partly to thank.

    A couple of weeks ago, AHL Syracuse coach Rob Zettler pulled Vermin, Adam Erne, Henri Ikonen, Yanni Gourde and Matthew Peca aside after practice and showed them video of Palat. The prospects watched every one of Palat's shifts from the Oct. 31 game against the Bruins, and Zettler pointed out all the little things the 2011 seventh-round pick did while playing in all situations to become the "straw that stirs the drink" in Tampa Bay....

    Wing Joel Vermin, in his NHL debut Thursday, parks in front of the Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist as the goalie makes a save.
  13. Ducks happy for Lauer to land with Lightning


    With Lightning assistant Brad Lauer set to coach against the Ducks tonight for the first time since Anaheim fired him in the offseason, he said there's no bitterness in how it ended.

    "I had a great four years there, we did some special things, had a special group," Lauer, 49, said. "I enjoyed it, was great for my career as a coach, good experience. I don't really have anything bad, negative to say. Our business is a business and changes are made, and you live with them, you get better as a coach and as a person and you move on."...

  14. Birthday boy Bishop starts in net; Callahan game-time decision


    Lightning goalie Ben Bishop turns 29 today, and there's nothing he'd like more than another win to celebrate it.

    Those victories have been hard to come by for Bishop, a victim of hard-luck despite playing some of the best hockey of his career. Bishop has a 2.18 goals against average and .920 save percentage, but is only 7-7-2 due to the Lightning's lack of scoring.

    But Bishop hasn't let the losses, including a recent five-game streak, get to him mentally....

  15. As fisticuffs fade in NHL, Lightning has no fights this season

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — It looked like J.T. Brown was destined to drop his gloves Thursday night.

    Brown, 25, was the perfect pest, jawing, jabbing, throwing his body all over the place against the Rangers. With agitators Cedric Paquette and Ryan Callahan out with injuries, Brown, a 5-foot-10, 175-pound wing, believed he needed to step up in scrums. It worked. Coach Jon Cooper said Brown was the most impactful player, other than the two goalies, in the Lightning's desperately needed 2-1 win....

    Another view of Lightning center Brian Boyle beating Red Wings goalie Petr Mrazek shorthanded to tie the game 1 to 1 in game one. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]