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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. King of the comebacks? Lightning makes a case this season

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — When exactly did you give up on the Lightning?

    Was it when captain Steven Stamkos suffered a knee injury in mid-November, forcing him to miss most of the season? Or when Tampa Bay fell to last place in the Eastern Conference on Feb. 4?

    Maybe it was when Tampa Bay became sellers at the March 1 trade deadline, shipping away two-time Vezina Trophy finalist Ben Bishop, plus veterans Brian Boyle and Valtteri Filppula....

    Victor Hedman's second goal 46 seconds into overtime sealed a 3-2 win over the Hurricanes on March 2. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times]
  2. Lightning rallies for OT win over Blackhawks (w/video)

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — As much resilience as the Lightning has shown recently, this looked pretty darn bleak.

    Like season-over bad.

    With any loss potentially crippling Tampa Bay's perilous playoff hopes, it fell behind 4-1 midway through Monday's showdown with the Blackhawks. The Lightning's No. 1 goalie, Andrei Vasilevskiy, had already been pulled and re-inserted into the game. The large portion of red-clad Chicago fans drowned out the sellout crowd of 19,092 at Amalie Arena....

    Lightning center Yanni Gourde is in the middle of a group hug with Victor Hedman, left, and Alex Killorn after Gourde — who was in the ECHL just a few years ago — scores the winning goal.
  3. Goalie Peter Budaj could have long-term Lightning benefits

    Lightning Strikes

    Much has been made about what the Lightning gave up by the March 1 trade deadline. Gone are goalie Ben Bishop and veteran centers Brian Boyle and Valtteri Filppula.

    But Tampa Bay's one addition — veteran backup goalie Peter Budaj, 34 — could be pivotal in not only a playoff push but beyond.

    Budaj, acquired from the Kings in the Bishop deal, has won two of his first three starts with the Lightning, including Thursday's massive victory in Boston. He was instrumental in a 3-2 win over the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on March 13....

    Goalie Peter Budaj, acquired at the trade deadline, has quickly fit in on and off the ice.
  4. Lightning moves one point from playoff spot with OT win vs. Red Wings (w/video)

    Lightning Strikes

    DETROIT — The Lightning began the week with a stunning home loss to Arizona, a three-game slide putting its playoff hopes in serious jeopardy.

    Defenseman Victor Hedman said the players couldn't let that break them. He vowed they wouldn't lie down.

    Tampa Bay backed that up with gutsy back-to-back victories on the road, including Friday's thrilling 2-1 overtime win over the Red Wings in its final trip to Joe Louis Arena. Wing Nikita Kucherov — who else — delivered the winner, adding to his case for MVP with his 38th goal of the season....

    Nikita Kucherov, left, puts the puck past Red Wings goalie Petr Mrazek in overtime for his 17th goal in his past 16 games.
  5. Lightning journal: Tyler Johnson not close to returning

    Lightning Strikes

    DETROIT — Who would have thought that captain Steven Stamkos might return before Tyler Johnson?

    While Stamkos continues to skate with the Lightning in hopes of coming back from mid-November knee surgery, Johnson still doesn't appear close to returning from a lower-body injury suffered March 9.

    Johnson hasn't even been skating on his own. Asked Friday if the center would return in the final eight games of the regular season after that night's 2-1 overtime win against the Red Wings, coach Jon Cooper said, "I don't know."...

    Center Tyler Johnson hasn’t even skated on his own since a March 9 lower-body injury.
  6. Lightning's Nikita Kucherov is playing like a league MVP

    Lightning Strikes

    DETROIT — NHL analyst Nick Kypreos went on a Canadian radio show recently and dropped a bombshell that likely stoked fans in Pittsburgh and Edmonton.

    Kypreos wondered if Lightning wing Nikita Kucherov is the best player in the world.

    That wasn't a slight against the Penguins' Sidney Crosby or the Oilers' Connor McDavid, widely considered the league's top stars. It's a reflection of what Kucherov has done this year, his 38-goal season bringing what had been a lost Lightning season back to life....

    Facebook picture of Joe Smith. (John Pendygraft | TIMES)
  7. Lightning recalls defenseman Slater Koekkoek


    Slater Koekkoek is finally on his way back to the NHL.

    Koekkoek, 23, was recalled Friday by the Lightning, likely insurance with the lower body injury suffered by veteran Jason Garrison Thursday. There's no official update on Garrison today, though he was seen post-game walking around without any brace or crutches.

    Koekkoek has played in 29 games for Tampa Bay this season, but his last one was Jan. 8. With the emergence of defenseman Jake Dotchin, and Luke Witkowski sticking due to waivers, Koekkoek had to remain in AHL Syracuse. Koekkoek, a former first-round pick, has done well, with two goals and nine assists in 38 games for the Crunch....

    Slater Koekkoek's recall is likely insurance with the lower body injury suffered by veteran Jason Garrison Thursday.
  8. Lightning tops Bruins (w/ video)

    Lightning Strikes

    BOSTON — Jonathan Drouin's celebration said it all.

    After the wing's go-ahead goal in Thursday's third period snapped a 13-game drought, he let out a huge yell and a fist pump. Then he reached over one shoulder to emphatically remove a metaphoric weight. "A monkey off my back," he said.

    Drouin's timing couldn't have been better. His rocket shot from the right circle with the score tied at 3 gave the Lightning the lead for good in a massive 6-3 victory over the Bruins at TD Garden. It was one of Tampa Bay's most resilient wins of the year. The Lightning rallied three times from a one-goal deficit in a combined 163 seconds of the second period....

    Nikita Kucherov, front, gets his second hat trick in less than a month as the Lightning comes back from three 1-goal deficits.
  9. Steven Stamkos: Time might be running out for Lightning return this season

    Lightning Strikes

    BOSTON — You can see how much captain Steven Stamkos desperately wants to get back in the Lightning lineup.

    But even Stamkos admitted Thursday that time might be running out.

    Stamkos, 27, said progress has been slow in his recovery from mid-November knee surgery. He has been skating for a month; last Friday was his first full practice with the team.

    Though the Lightning could certainly use Stamkos as it fights for its playoff life, the superstar center said the standings won't dictate his return. And Stamkos said he didn't know if he would be back in the nine games that remain after Thursday's 6-3 win against the Bruins....

    Steven Stamkos has been out since November knee surgery. “The knee is a tricky situation,” he says.
  10. Peter Budaj gets start in must-win game vs Boston


    With the Lightning's playoff chances on the line in a must-win game against Boston, veteran backup Peter Budaj gets the start in net.

    Budaj, 34, has made just two starts with Tampa Bay since getting acquired from the Kings in the Ben Bishop trade Feb. 27. But he's been good in both, including making 26 saves in a 3-2 win against the Rangers 10 days ago.

    Budaj has strong numbers in Boston, 4-1-0 with a 1.19 goals against average in his career in starts at the TD Garden. The Lightning will need a great game from Budaj after allowing five goals in each of the past three games....

    Peter Budaj has made just two starts with the Lightning since getting acquired from the Kings in the Ben Bishop trade Feb. 27.
  11. Steven Stamkos knows time running out on return


    Steven Stamkos was once again the last Lightning player to leave the ice following today's morning skate in Boston.

    There's no question Stamkos is pushing hard to return as soon as he can, especially with his team fighting for its playoff life with 10 games to go. But Stamkos' said progress in his recovery from mid-November right knee surgery has been slow.

    Stamkos reiterates the standings will not factor in his return date, only when he feels 100-percent comfortable. And he's not sure if that'll happen by the end of the regular season....

    Steven Stamkos said progress in his recovery from mid-November right knee surgery has been slow.
  12. Lightning needs big win total in final 10 games for playoff hope

    Lightning Strikes

    BOSTON — When Lightning coach Jon Cooper was asked if Tuesday's loss to the Coyotes was one of the most frustrating of the season, his answer was telling.

    "A lot of frustrating games this year," Cooper said. "This ranks up there, though."

    That there have been so many from which to choose is damning, the reason the Lightning will likely miss the playoffs. Sure, Tuesday's 5-3 loss to Arizona was inexcusable. If, in an absolute must-win game, you can't beat the second-worst team in the league at home, maybe you don't deserve to be in the postseason....

    Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper minds the bench during the first period of Tuesday's (3/21/17) game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Arizona Coyotes at Amalie Arena in Tampa.
  13. It's desperation time as Lightning chases a playoff berth

    Lightning Strikes


    Any margin for error the Lightning had left in its playoff fight was wiped away with back-to-back losses.

    Tampa Bay still has a shot, two points out of the final wild-card spot in the East behind Toronto, which has a game in hand. But with just 11 games to go, the Lightning has its work cut out for it, including a challenging schedule.

    The first step is not getting deflated by its first losing streak since Jan. 31-Feb. 2....

    “We can’t let this break us,” defenseman Victor Hedman, left, with MVP candidate Nikita Kucherov, says of the team’s skid.
  14. In must-win game, Lightning falls to Capitals (w/video)

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — The Lightning has made a remarkable run with an injury-depleted lineup, which features six rookies.

    Instead of captain Steven Stamkos or Tyler Johnson, there are youngsters such as Yanni Gourde and Byron Froese. Heck, defenseman Luke Witkowski is filling in as a fourth-line wing.

    That has worked for a while thanks to grit and guts, heroics by Brayden Point, Nikita Kucherov and Andrei Vasilevskiy. ...

    From left: Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Jonathan Drouin (27), Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman (6), Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Alex Killorn (17)., Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Jason Garrison (5) and Tampa Bay Lightning center Yanni Gourde (65) celebrate Killorn's first period goal during Saturday's (3/18/17) game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Washington Capitals at Amalie Arena in Tampa.
  15. Lightning journal: Brett Connolly thriving with Capitals after leaving Lightning

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — The first time Capitals coach Barry Trotz spoke with wing Brett Connolly, the former Lightning No. 6 overall pick admitted that he probably got put in the NHL too soon.

    Connolly played 68 games with the Lightning in 2011-12 season as a 19-year-old straight out of junior. He then bounced back and forth from the AHL the next few years before getting dealt by Tampa Bay in 2015. The Capitals were his third team in three years....

    The Capitals’ Brett Connolly went into Saturday’s game against his former team with a career-high 15 goals in 56 games.