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


Twitter: @MBakerTBTimes

  1. Lightning-Flyers Thursday night preview

    Lightning Strikes

  2. Saints-Panthers Thursday night preview


    Tonight: Saints at Panthers

    When/where: 8:25; Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, N.C.

    TV/radio: NFL; 1010-AM, 98.7-FM

    Line/OU: Saints by 2½; 49½

    First place is on the line in the NFC South. New Orleans, coming off a 21-point win at home over the Packers, is 0-4 on the road. QB Drew Brees' 27-of-32 performance Sunday night moved his career completion percentage to an NFL-record 66.06. The Panthers get a boost with the return of RB DeAngelo Williams (ankle), but this seems like a time for the Saints to get their first road win....

  3. Confidence benefits Lightning's Kucherov

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — The up-and-down, young career of Lightning wing Nikita Kucherov is coming off a new high.

    With Tuesday night's hat trick against the Coyotes, the 21-year-old Russian showed new maturity while continuing to flash an offensive potential not tapped fully.

    "When that kid's on and he's hot," coach Jon Cooper said, "stuff like what happened (Tuesday) happens."

    Kucherov, who with his teammates face the Flyers tonight at Amalie Arena, could not have started his career any hotter. He scored during his first NHL shift on his first shot on goal in November. But the rest of his rookie season was a struggle. He had only eight goals and 17 points in his other 51 games, and he was a healthy scratch twice in the first-round playoff sweep by the Canadiens....

    “I’m just trying to play my game,” says Nikita Kucherov, who Tuesday scored his first NHL hat trick.
  4. Ryan Callahan was upgraded from week to week to day to day this week as he continues to progress from a lower-body injury.
  5. Nikita Kucherov's hat trick sparks Lightning victory

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — In the home debut of touted wing Jonathan Drouin, another promising Lightning youngster stole the spotlight.

    Nikita Kucherov recorded his first career hat trick to lead the Lightning to a 7-3 win over the Coyotes at Amalie Arena on Tuesday night.

    "That was amazing," Kucherov said after the first multi-goal game of his career.

    The Lightning (6-3-1) was as impressive, shaking off a 7-2 loss at Minnesota in its last game to dominate early in front of an announced crowd of 17,511....

    Brian Boyle beats Coyotes (and former Lightning) goaltender Mike Smith in the second period, the first of his two goals.
  6. Victor Hedman itching to get back from broken finger

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — When D Victor Hedman blocked the shot that broke his finger this month, he immediately knew the injury was severe, even if the adrenaline subdued the pain.

    "When I took off my glove," Hedman said, "I knew it was bad."

    Hedman is still recovering from the right-hand injury he sustained in the Oct. 18 win over Vancouver. He had surgery — which included the insertion of a few pins — two days later and has started the rehab process that could keep him out for another month....

    Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman (77), who scored the first goal of the game, on the ice against the Ottawa Senators during second period action at the Amalie Arena in Tampa Saturday evening (10/11/14).
  7. Victor Hedman on injury: 'I knew it was bad'


    TAMPA – When D Victor Hedman blocked the shot that broke his finger earlier this month, he immediately knew the injury was severe, even if the adrenaline kept him from feeling much pain....

  8. Ryan Callahan expected to play this week



    Ryan Callahan hasn’t played since sustaining a lower-body injury in an Oct. 20 loss at Edmonton.
  9. Lightning-Coyotes preview

    Lightning Strikes


    Coyotes at Lightning

    When/where: 7:30, Amalie Arena

    TV/radio: Sun Sports; 970-AM

    Key stats: Arizona has one of the league's leakiest defenses, allowing 3.43 goals per game. That's fifth-worst in the league. With Gs Devan Dubnyk and Mike Smith, the Coyotes are third-to-last in the NHL with an .877 save percentage. … D Keith Yandle's seven assists are second in the league among defensemen, and LW Mikkel Boedker's five goals rank among the best in the league. … The Coyotes are 0-1-1 on the road. … The Lightning was winless against Arizona last year....

  10. Lightning tries to bring home chemistry it gained on the road

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Before the Lightning left for its first road trip of the season— a five-game, 10-day trek out West — the team talked about the importance of getting points early in the fall.

    "To take six out of 10, we'll take that," associate coach Rick Bowness said after Monday's practice.

    The Lightning will try to build on that performance tonight when it hosts the Coyotes to begin a four-game homestand....

    “You’ve got to make your home ice a really hard place for away teams to come in and pick up points,” says Mark Barberio, middle.
  11. FSU's Karlos Williams under investigation for domestic battery


    Another off-the-field controversy surfaced regarding Florida State's powerhouse football program Monday, this one involving one of its top offensive talents.

    Leading rusher Karlos Williams is involved in a domestic battery investigation, the Tallahassee Police Department announced Monday afternoon.

    The allegations came Saturday night, but no other details were available on the ongoing investigation. ESPN reported that police are investigating whether he assaulted his live-in, pregnant girlfriend....

    Karlos Williams leads the No. 2 Seminoles with 378 yards and seven touchdowns on 82 carries. 
  12. Alex Killorn, J.T. Brown expected to play Tuesday


    TAMPA – The Lightning reassigned forwards Mike Blunden and Jonathan Marchessault to Syracuse on Monday, general manager Steve Yzerman announced....

  13. Bucs can't get Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater to crack



    Although the Bucs pressured rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater most of the game, they couldn't get the Miami native to crack. Bridgewater finished 24-of-42 passing for 241 yards. And after throwing a combined five interceptions in his last two games, he was turnover-free Sunday.

    "Give him all the credit," DT Akeem Spence said. "Bridgewater, he was making all the throws. We did have pressure in his face. We just couldn't get him on the ground."...

    Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater drops back to pass in the fourth quarter as Bucs defensive end Michael Johnson pressures. [BRENDAN FITTERER | Times]
  14. Bucs defense staunch until the Vikings' final drive



    The Bucs' defense bent early, allowing Minnesota to drive to at least midfield on eight of its first 12 possessions while only surrendering 10 points.

    But on their biggest series of the game, they finally broke, allowing Minnesota to drive 61 yards in the final 2:02 of regulation and set up Blair Walsh's game-tying 38-yard field goal.

    "We've just got to capitalize," DT Gerald McCoy said....

    Vikings kicker Mike Kalka kicks the tying field goal, sending the game into overtime. [JIM DAMASKE   |   Times]
  15. Quick hits from the Bucs' loss to the Vikings



    — Bucs K Patrick Murray kicked field goals from 54 and 45 yards. He improved to 3-for-3 this season on kicks of at least 50 yards.

    — Rookie WR Mike Evans led the team with a career-high 78 receiving yards on four catches. His 40-yard reception in the fourth quarter tied a career high.

    — DEs William Gholston and Jacquies Smith combined for three quarterback hurries and broke up two passes....