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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


Twitter: @MBakerTBTimes

  1. Jonathan Drouin is sick, but Ben Bishop is back tonight


    TAMPA – The Lightning will get one key player back tonight, while another was sent home sick....

  2. Lightning-Hurricanes Saturday night preview

    Lightning Strikes


    Lightning vs. Hurricanes

    When/where: 7, Amalie Arena

    TV/radio: Sun Sports; 970-AM

    Key stats: Carolina has lost eight of its past 10 games to drop to the bottom of the Eastern Conference. … Carolina G Cam Ward has lost five of his past six games, including to the Lightning 2-1 on Dec. 11. … D Justin Faulk leads the Hurricanes with 20 points. … F Tyler Johnson leads the Lightning in points with 37 and is tied for seventh in the league. … Lightning G Ben Bishop was expected to return from a lower-body injury. Tampa Bay is 2-2 in the four full games he has missed....

  3. Palat, Johnson, Kucherov healthy again for Lightning

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — The Lightning suggested several theories to try to explain its offensive skid before Christmas. Bad breaks. A lack of dirty goals. Opponents' adjustments. A statistical blip in a long season.

    But as it returns from the NHL's three-day holiday break tonight against the Hurricanes, the Lightning's last game provided another one: The steady line of Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson and Nikita Kucherov hadn't been 100 percent healthy....

    “We came back to what we’re supposed to: play fast and passing the puck around and score,” Ondrej Palat says of his and his linemates’ efforts in Tuesday’s win versus Pittsburgh.
  4. For Buccaneers DE Da'Quan Bowers, one last chance to prove his worth


    TAMPA — Aside from their first home win in more than a year, and the No. 1 overall pick, the Bucs as a team have nothing to play for when they close the season Sunday against the Saints.

    But the Bucs as individuals have plenty to play for, and few have more at stake than Da'Quan Bowers.

    The former second-round pick is in the final year of his rookie contract and has one last chance to convince the new regime that he deserves to be a part of the franchise's long-term plans....

    Da’Quan Bowers, drafted in 2011, is already playing for his third head coach in his four-year career with Tampa Bay. His second and third seasons came under Greg Schiano, left, in 2012-13. Bowers has seven career sacks in 49 games.
  5. Andrei Vasilevskiy reassigned to Syracuse


    The Lightning announced that it reassigned goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy to Syracuse on Wednesday, a day after he made his third career start in a 4-3 win over the Penguins....

  6. Brandon Gomes to Triple-A Durham



    Right-hander Brandon Gomes accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A Durham, the Rays announced Tuesday evening.

    The reliever was designated for assignment on Friday to clear room on the 40-man roster for the 11-player, three-team trade that sent Wil Myers to San Diego.

    Gomes appeared in 29 games for the Rays last season, posting a 2-2 record and a 3.71 ERA. He also played in 27 games for Durham....

  7. Tyler Johnson's hat trick key as Lightning finally beats Penguins

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — The Lightning bailed itself out of its offensive rut Tuesday night thanks to a speedy forward still recovering from the flu.

    Tyler Johnson scored his second career hat trick to give the Lightning a 4-3 win over the Penguins in front of a sold-out crowd of 19,204 at Amalie Arena.

    "Happy holidays, right?" Johnson said.

    The three-day Christmas break will certainly be happier thanks to Johnson and his line, which was responsible for all four goals to help the Lightning (21-11-4) earn its third win in the past nine games and snap a 10-game losing streak to the Penguins....

    Center Tyler Johnson, left, joins his teammates in celebrating his hat trick after his goal in the second period. His line had four goals.
  8. Penguins a few players short against Lightning

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Lightning coach Jon Cooper didn't feel too bad about facing a shorthanded Penguins team Tuesday night.

    With three more players being tested for the mumps and Blake Comeau out after injuring himself Monday, Pittsburgh's total of injured/sick players stood at 12 Tuesday. Forward Dominik Uher became the sixth Penguin to make his NHL debut this month alone when he was recalled from the minors before Tuesday's game....

    Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper looks on from the bench with his team against the Philadelphia Flyers during second period action at the Amalie Arena in Tampa Thursday evening (10/30/31).
  9. Ben Bishop and Jason Garrison out vs Pittsburgh Penguins


    TAMPA – The Lightning will be without goalie Ben Bishop and defenseman Jason Garrison tonight because of injuries....

  10. Lightning seeks to snap 10-game Penguin hex

    Lightning Strikes

    BRANDON — The Lightning doesn't seem interested in a history lesson as it prepares to host the Penguins tonight.

    Tampa Bay has lost its past 10 games to Pittsburgh, dating to November 2011. Pittsburgh has scored at least four regulation goals in eight of those games, including the Lightning's 4-2 road loss last week.

    "That's the only game that I really care about," forward Brian Boyle said....

    Lightning center Brian Boyle goes flying after a hit from Penguins defenseman Simon Despres in the teams’ meeting Dec. 15, which Pittsburgh won 4-2.
  11. Lightning-Penguins preview

    Lightning Strikes


    Lightning vs. Penguins

    When/where: 7:30, Amalie Arena

    TV/radio: Sun Sports; 970-AM

    Key stats: The Lightning is coming off of a five-game road trip that featured four losses. … Pittsburgh is third in the league in scoring (3.1 goals per game) and third in goals against (2.2). The Penguins entered Monday on a three-game winning streak that began with last week's 4-2 win over the Lightning. … Penguins G Marc-Andre Fleury has stopped 74 of 75 shots in his last two games. … Pittsburgh continues to deal with concerns over the mumps, and three players are scheduled to be tested for the illness. … Lightning rookie Jonathan Drouin has two assists and a goal over the last four games....

  12. Both sides say Jameis Winston hearing was tough on them


    A day after Florida State star quarterback Jameis Winston was cleared of four university conduct code violations related to sexual assault allegations, the conversation shifted.

    Instead of discussing whether the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner will remain on the field in the Rose Bowl against Oregon, the aftermath centered on how difficult the experience has been on Winston and the woman who accused him of rape....

    Jameis Winston was cleared Sunday of breaking FSU conduct policy.
  13. Timeline of Jameis Winston investigation


    Here's a timeline of what has happened since news broke in November 2013 that Florida State star quarterback Jameis Winston was a suspect in a sexual assault. Information compiled through police accounts, statements from attorneys, the State Attorney's Office and media reports from the Associated Press, ESPN and the Tallahassee Democrat:

    DEC. 7, 2012

    A woman is offered a shot of alcohol by an unknown person at a Tallahassee bar before leaving in a cab, according to the Tallahassee Police Department. She claims to have been assaulted at an apartment between 1:30 and 2 a.m. FSU police get a call and refer the off-campus incident case to Tallahassee police, who arrive at 4:10 a.m. The woman is interviewed, and evidence is collected using a rape kit. The police begin investigating and ask an assistant state attorney to help obtain phone records....

    Jameis Winston has been cleared of sexual assault accusations and possible violations of Florida State's code of conduct, a retired judge ruled Sunday. [Getty Images]
  14. FSU clears quarterback Jameis Winston of code of conduct violations


    Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston was cleared of four university conduct violations Sunday after a retired judge determined that 2-year-old sexual assault allegations amounted to a convoluted he-said, she-said case.

    Former Florida Supreme Court Justice Major Harding wrote that Winston and his accuser provided contradictory stories of their December 2012 sexual encounter. Neither story was "substantially stronger" than the other...

    Florida State Seminoles quaterback Jameis Winston leaves his student conduct code hearing this month in Tallahassee. The hearing continued Wednesday morning. [Getty Images]