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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 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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 goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy (88) makes a stop on Arizona Coyotes center Christian Dvorak (18) 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.
  6. 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....

    Andrei Vasilevskiy has generally played well since taking over as the No. 1 goalie, though the Lightning has allowed five goals in back-to-back games.
  7. 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. ...

    Washington Capitals right wing T.J. Oshie (77) is destabilized by Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman (77) during the second period of Saturday's (3/18/17) game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Washington Capitals at Amalie Arena in Tampa.
  8. 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.
  9. Lightning won't rush back Stamkos, no matter how needy

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — The sight of Steven Stamkos participating in a full team practice Friday was as tantalizing for teammates as it was for Lightning fans.

    "Certain things he does on the ice, you can tell this team is going to be a lot better with him," wing Alex Killorn said. "We're hoping to get him back as soon as possible."

    The million-dollar question is when? There's no question the Lightning badly needs Stamkos as it fights for its playoff lives with 11 games to go. There's a glaring hole at center after two were dealt at the deadline and with three currently injured....

    Facebook picture of Joe Smith. (John Pendygraft | TIMES)
  10. Ondrej Palat, Jake Dotchin good to go for tonight


    The Lightning finally got some good news on the injury front Saturday, with both wing Ondrej Palat and defenseman Jake Dotchin available tonight against the Capitals.

    Palat and Dotchin missed Friday's practice and were questionable, but both participated in today's morning skate.

    However, Vladislav Namestnikov (who skated in red jersey), Cedric Paquette and Tyler Johnson are all out. And coach Jon Cooper said he doesn't have an idea on when they'll be back....

  11. Lightning's Steven Stamkos on injury progress: Some positives but nothing imminent on return

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — There have been some dark days for Lightning captain Steven Stamkos during his four-month recovery from right knee surgery.

    There were times Stamkos wondered if he ever would get better.

    "This has been the toughest by far," he said.

    That's saying something for Stamkos, 26, a superstar who has come back from a broken leg and blood clot in the past three years. But on Friday, there was a glimmer of hope, Stamkos participating in his first full team practice since a mid-November injury cut short what was the best hockey of his life. ...

    Steven Stamkos
  12. Steven Stamkos on first full Lightning team practice since surgery: 'It was a start'


    Lightning captain Steven Stamkos took another step towards his return Friday, encouraged with how he felt after his first full team practice since mid-November knee surgery.

    But coach Jon Cooper made it clear that by no means is Stamkos' return imminent. And Stamkos admitted he wasn't sure if he'll be back by the end of the regular season, which has 12 games left.

    This week marks the four month mark in the expected 4-6 month recovery, but Stamkos said the four-month expectation was out of the window right away. It's somewhere in the middle....

  13. Lightning suffers ugly, costly loss to Maple Leafs (w/video)

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Remember in November when Brian Boyle said he'd love to face his Lightning team because it was "too easy" to play against in its own zone?

    On Thursday, Boyle got his wish.

    The Lightning was soft and sloppy in front of its net in getting thumped 5-0 by Toronto, snapping a four-game winning streak. Tampa Bay picked a bad time for a clunker, allowing the Maple Leafs to pull one point ahead for the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference thanks to the Islanders' loss to the Jets....

    Yanni Gourde, center, mixes it up with Jake Gardiner, left, and Nikita Zaitsev in the first period.
  14. Lightning journal: Vasilevskiy pulled, teammates quick to take blame

    Lightning Strikes


    Lightning coach Jon Cooper said the only area of the ice his team didn't defend Thursday against the Maple Leafs was the 10-by-10 area in front of the net.

    The result was a short night for G Andrei Vasilevskiy, who allowed four goals in the 5-0 loss at Amalie Arena, including three in the second period when he was pulled 6:14 in.

    "It looks bad for Vasilevskiy," Cooper said, "but there's not much you can do when you got guys tapping them in."...

    DIRK SHADD   |   Times
  15. Morgan Rielly not surprised by Brayden Point's emergence


    There are many that are surprised that Lightning rookie Brayden Point made the team out of camp, much less smoothly stepping in as No. 1 center in a playoff push.

    But Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly isn't one of them.

    Rielly, who played with Point in juniors with the Moose Jaw Warriors, always felt the 5-foot-10, 166-pound center had the drive and skills to succeed in the NHL.

    "I remember watching him at world juniors when I was in Toronto and telling the guys how good he was," Rielly told the Times. "He's always been an underdog a little bit because of his size, but I think he's coming into his own, having an outstanding year and I'm really happy for him."...

    Brayden Point has been arguably the Lightning's most consistent forward this season.