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Matt Baker, Times Staff Writer

Matt Baker

Matt Baker joined the Times as a sports reporter in 2011. In 2014, he started covering the Bucs, Rays and Lightning. He previously covered high school and college sports for the Tulsa World and minor league baseball for the Springfield (Mo.) News-Leader. His work has been honored by the Best American Sports Writing series and the Associated Press Sports Editors. He is a Hoosier native and graduated from Northwestern University in 2008.

Phone: (727) 420-9087

Email: mbaker@tampabay.com

Twitter: @MBakerTBTimes

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  1. Lightning hopes streak against Canadiens continues

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — The Lightning enters Game 3 with a 2-0 series lead and has beaten the Canadiens in all of their seven matchups this season.

    For most of the players and coaches, that 7-0 record against Montreal isn't a sign of dominance in their Eastern Conference semifinal series. It's meaningless.

    "We've won two games in this series, so the 7-0 stat's (junk)," C Brian Boyle said. "… If we're in their heads, I don't care. I don't think we are. I think they're going to refocus. It doesn't matter to me at all. We need to worry about ourselves."...

    Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Ben Bishop (30) is congratulated by teammates Steven Stamkos (91), Andrej Sustr and Ryan Callahan after defeating the Montreal Canadiens 6-2 in Game 2 NHL second round playoff hockey action, Sunday, May 3, 2015 in Montreal. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press via AP) RYR113
  2. Canadiens' Brandon Prust apologizes for officiating comments

    Blog

    TAMPA – Montreal wing Brandon Prust apologized Tuesday for his comments directed toward official Brad Watson after Sunday’s Game 2.

    “It was an embarrassment,” Prust said of his actions.

    Prust was given 27 penalty minutes in the end of the Lightning’s 6-2 win Sunday, after tripping goalie Ben Bishop and getting in a fight with defenseman Braydon Coburn. Afterward, Prust said Watson provoked him and “tries to play God.”...

    Brandon Prust was given 27 penalty minutes at the end of the Lightning’s 6-2 win Sunday.
  3. Jason Licht's dad helps Bucs with fifth-round pick

    Bucs

    TAMPA — General manager Jason Licht was in the Bucs war room during Saturday's fifth round of the NFL draft when he showed coach Lovie Smith a text from his father.

    Ron Licht, a University of Nebraska season-ticket holder since 1962, lobbied his son to draft Kenny Bell, the Huskers' all-time leading receiver. Licht, a former Nebraska walk-on, didn't need much convincing.

    "That was easy," he said. "We turned the card in right then."...

    Kenny Bell, right, caught 21 touchdowns and left Nebraska as the program's all-time leader in catches (181) and receiving yards (2,689). No offensive player in the Huskers' storied history started more games than Bell (49). [Getty Images]
  4. Bucs take Nebraska Cornhuskers receiver Kenny Bell in fifth round

    Blog

    The Bucs gave rookie quarterback Jameis Winston another offensive weapon, drafting receiver Kenny Bell out of Nebraska in the fifth round (No. 162 overall).

    Bell is a 6-foot-1, 197-pound athlete. He was a first-team all-Big Ten selection last season and was the most prolific receiver in Huskers history. He broke school records with 181 career catches and 2,689 receiving yards. ...

    Kenny Bell, right, was a first-team all-Big Ten selection last season and was the most prolific receiver in Huskers history.
  5. FSU's Mario Edwards, son of ex-Buc, drafted by Raiders

    Bucs

    Tampa Bay fans should be familiar with Oakland's first pick in the second round — defensive lineman Mario Edwards Jr., right. His father, Mario Edwards, played 15 games at cornerback for the Bucs in 2004. Edwards was one of the top high school recruits in the country before becoming a solid contributor at Florida State. The 6-foot-3, 279-pass rusher and No. 35 overall pick will reunite with position coach Sal Sunseri, who was Edwards' position coach at FSU....

    Getty Images
  6. Highlights from Jameis Winston's first Bucs news conference

    Blog

    TAMPA – The Bucs introduced No. 1 overall pick Jameis Winston today with an afternoon news conference.

    Some highlights from the former Florida State star quarterback:

    * Winston said he chose No. 3 because that was the first jersey number he ever wore, back when he played for the Bessemer Tigers as a child. “I just look at it as a new beginning,” Winston said. Also, add up No. 3 with No. 5 (his number at FSU) and you get No. 8 – his jersey number at Hueytown (Ala). High School. ...

    Jameis Winston on how he’ll handle joining a 2-14 team: “I love challenges.”
  7. Bucs, Winston to get visit from Mariota, Titans in Week 1

    Sports

    For months, the debate has been about Jameis Winston vs. Marcus Mariota, and the quarterbacks taken with the top two picks will meet in Week 1 when Mariota and the Titans come to Tampa to open the season against the Bucs.

    Neither QB is assured of the starting job, but Bucs general manager Jason Licht said that expectation comes with any QB picked at No. 1. Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt told reporters that he plans for Mariota to start in the opener. ...

    West Virginia wide receiver Kevin White and his new team, the Bears, visit the Bucs on Dec. 27. He is the No. 7 pick.
  8. Bucs fans celebrate drafting of Jameis Winston No. 1

    Bucs

    TAMPA — If the custom-made $150 Jameis Winston Bucs jersey and the cardboard cutout of Winston's head weren't clear enough signs of who Adam Hoge wanted the Bucs to choose with the No. 1 overall draft pick Thursday night, he had something else to show you.

    The Sarasota fan nicknamed "Buc Head" had shaved "Draft Jameis" into the back of his head.

    "Why would I not?" Hoge said.

    Hoge's method was attention-getting, but his message was nearly unanimous among what the Bucs said were about 20,000 people who flowed into Raymond James Stadium for their draft party....

    Bucs coach Lovie Smith, at a news conference after the selection of Jameis Winston No. 1, says the quarterback “stood out” along every step of the evaluation process. Asked if Winston is his starter, Smith says, “We have a little bit of time before we have to make that official.”
  9. New Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston through the years

    Blog

    With the Bucs selecting Jameis Winston with the No. 1 overall pick Thursday, here's a look at some of our previous stories on Winston, dating back to high school:

    Jan. 3, 2012: Winston, then a senior in high school, wins pass attack challenge before the Under Armour All-America Game: Quarterback Jameis Winston, a Florida State commit from Hueytown, Ala., won the pass attack, a drill to test throwing accuracy. Winston collected 280 points by hitting moving targets from 20, 30 and 40 yards. Before finishing his day with a 70-yard strike in a distance contest, he turned behind him and roused the support of his fellow All-Americans....

  10. Lightning: Lightning dominates Canadiens goalie Carey Price; a record audience

    Lightning Strikes

    Numbers of the day

    Montreal G Carey Price against the Lightning this season: 0-4-1, 16 goals allowed in five games for a 3.47 goals-against average.

    Price against the rest of the league: 44-12-5, 114 goals allowed in 61 games, 1.87 GAA.

    Record audience

    Wednesday's Game 7 against the Red Wings was the most-watched Lightning game in Sun Sports history, the network said Thursday. It was seen by an estimated 133,046 households. Lightning ratings on Sun Sports were up 5 percent during the regular season from last season. Game 7's national broadcast on NBC Sports Network averaged 978,000 viewers, making it the most-watched cable playoff game of the year to date, NBC said. ...

  11. Breaking down the Lightning-Canadiens matchups

    Lightning Strikes

    The Lightning and Canadiens begin their Eastern Conference semifinal tonight in Montreal. Recent history makes its outcome hard to predict. Tampa Bay swept their series during the regular season (4-0-1). The Canadiens swept the Lightning out of last year's postseason in the first round. Here's a breakdown heading into Game 1:

    Goaltending

    Carey Price, Canadiens

    Price is universally regarded as one of the top goalies in the world. "There's no question about that," Lightning wing Ryan Callahan said. Price, 27, is a finalist for the Hart Trophy (league MVP) and is a big reason Montreal had its best regular-season record in more than two decades. He is the first goalie since Ed Belfour in 1990-91 to lead the league in wins (44), goals-against average (1.96) and save percentage (.933). "He's had a really good year," Lightning center Brian Boyle said. "I'm sure he wants to continue it. We want to try to obviously get to him and make it difficult for him."...

    MONTREAL, QC - APRIL 15: Michel Therrien of the Montreal Canadiens during the game against the Ottawa Senators in Game One of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Bell Centre on April 15, 2015 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)
  12. Five things to know about the Canadiens



    Lightning Strikes

    1 Carey Price is really good: There's a reason Montreal's goalie is considered the obvious choice for the Vezina Trophy (top goalie) and Hart Trophy (most valuable player). His 1.96 goals-against average and .933 save percentage were best in the league. Price stopped all 43 shots he faced in the Canadiens' series-clinching Game 6 win against the Senators in the first round on the road. ...

    Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban works on his slapshot during NHL hockey practice, Tuesday, April 21, 2015, in Saint Jovite, Quebec. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press via AP)
  13. Goalie Ben Bishop steps up in biggest game of career (w/video)

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Whether Lightning goalie Ben Bishop acknowledged it or not, one of the biggest stories of the series' first six games was the dynamic play of his counterpart, Detroit's Petr Mrazek. The Red Wings rookie shut out the Lightning twice and made one of the top saves of the season.

    But with Wednesday night's shutout and 31-save performance, Bishop reminded the league why he's considered one of the game's top young goaltenders....

    Lightning goalie Ben Bishop, who makes 31 saves in the first Game 7 of his career, rushes from the crease and dives to the puck to break up a play by Red Wings left wing Drew Miller during the second period.
  14. Anton Stralman eventually gets a goal (w/video)

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Lightning D Anton Stralman thought he might have had his first goal of the playoffs in the middle of the third period Wednesday.

    He appeared to score in Tampa Bay's 2-0 Game 7 win over the Red Wings when he deked a defender and slipped the puck past G Petr Mrazek. But the goal was wiped out because Lightning C Steven Stamkos and Detroit C Riley Sheahan were called for offsetting interference penalties. Stralman said he heard the whistle blow before his shot....

    Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos, middle, battles for position as Detroit Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall (55) defends with goalie Petr Mrazek (34)in the first period of Game 6 of a first-round NHL Stanley Cup hockey playoff series in Detroit Monday, April 27, 2015. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) MIPS106
  15. Niklas Kronwall 'extremely disappointed' in NHL suspension for Game 7

    Blog

    TAMPA – Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall said he’s “extremely disappointed” the league suspended him for tonight’s Game 7 against the Lightning but that he put himself in the situation – even if he doesn’t understand the decision.

    Kronwall said he hasn’t slept well the last two nights and said it was difficult to hear the decision Tuesday night. ...

    Niklas Kronwall said he hasn’t slept well the last two nights and said it was difficult to hear the decision Tuesday night.