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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. Peter Budaj, Lightning lose to Devils in shootout; Nikita Kucherov scores

    Lightning Strikes

    NEWARK, N.J. — For Peter Budaj, Tuesday's season debut had a shaky start.

    This was a tough position for Budaj, 35, playing in his first game in about three weeks. And he looked rusty early on, Budaj allowing an innocent-looking wrist shot squeak through his legs. Then Budaj whiffed on a loose puck in the crease, leading to another.

    "Obviously didn't start the best," Budaj said....

    The Lightning’s Vladislav Namestnikov, right, battles Damon Severson for the puck.
  2. Lightning's Steve Yzerman enjoying Nikita Kucherov's scoring run

    Lightning Strikes

    NEWARK, N.J. — If anyone knows what it is like to be as hot as Nikita Kucherov is right now, it's Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman.

    On Monday, Kucherov, 24, joined Yzerman, Mario Lemieux and Keith Tkachuk as the only players in the past 30 years to score a goal in each of his team's first six games. On Tuesday, Kucherov made it seven consecutive games, becoming one of six players in the modern era (1943-44) to complete that feat. The others were Lemieux (12 games), Mike Bossy (10), Wayne Gretzky (eight), Ken Hodge (seven) and Tony Tanti (seven). ...

    Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov, of Russia, celebrates after scoring a goal on the New Jersey Devils during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
  3. Joe Smith's takeaways from Lightning-Devils

    Lightning Strikes

    D Mikhail Sergachev earned more ice time Tuesday, logging more than he had in the past three games (when he played fewer than 10 in two). He was poised on the power play. He kept things simple. This was one of the 19-year-old's better games, including his first career two-point night. It won't be Sergachev's last.

    It might not show up on the scoresheet, but forward Yanni Gourde has been stellar this season. The subtle, steady defensive plays to thwart scoring chances. The relentless forecheck. Gourde did the dirty work to set up Steven Stamkos' go-ahead goal in the second period. ...

  4. Lightning's Steve Yzerman: Nikita Kucherov 'wants to be great'


    If anyone knows what it is like to be as hot as Nikita Kucherov is right now, it's Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman.

    Kucherov, 24, joined Yzerman, Mario Lemieux and Keith Tkachuk as the only players in the last 30 years to score a goal in each of his team's first six games. Kucherov has seven, including two in Monday's 3-2 win over Detroit. Yzerman racked up six in the first six games of the 1988-89 season, when he finished with a career-high 65....

    Nikita Kucherov joined Steve Yzerman, Mario Lemieux and Keith Tkachuk as the only players in the last 30 years to score a goal in each of his team's first six games.
  5. Lightning edges Red Wings on road

    Lightning Strikes

    DETROIT — The digs were different, the Lightning seeing the masterfully-done new Little Caesar's Arena for the first time.

    But the result remained the same, another Tampa Bay victory over the Red Wings, who lost for the eight straight time to their Atlantic Division rivals. This time it was 3-2 Lightning.

    "This is a typical Tampa-Detroit game," coach Jon Cooper said. "Not much room out there. I thought there were times they had us on our heels. We weren't on top of them like we should. But I like our determination in the third."...

    Lightning center/Red Wings’ killer Tyler Johnson gets past defenseman Trevor Daley on his way to the first goal of the game.
  6. Joe Smith's takeaways from Lightning-Red Wings

    Lightning Strikes

    They did a masterful job with the new Little Caesar's Pizza Arena. While as a Detroit native, it's natural to have nostalgia over the old Joe Louis Arena, the Red Wings did it right blending the state-of-the-art amenities while preserving history (including old Joe Louis stools in home dressing room)

    Red Wings fans must really hate Lightning center Tyler Johnson. Johnson, who nearly single-handedly lifted Tampa Bay to a playoff series win over Detroit in 2014-15, started the scoring Monday with a short-handed breakaway. Looks like vintage speed from Johnson, a good sign....

  7. Backhand shot makes Nikita Kucherov's offense even more dangerous

    Lightning Strikes

    DETROIT — Nikita Kucherov is on a historic streak, just the fourth player in the past 30 years to score a goal in each of his first six games.

    The others include Hall of Famers Steve Yzerman and Mario Lemieux. Not too shabby.

    "Special player, special, shot," captain Steven Stamkos said. "When you're hot, you're hot."

    Kucherov has scored in a variety of ways in his record run, including a sick wrist shot his first of two goals in Monday's 3-2 win over Detroit. But Kucherov has also incorporated a lost art — the backhand shot — which the Lightning wing had used for two of his previous four goals. ...

    Nikita Kucherov’s backhand shot adds to his strong scoring.
  8. Deception key to Nikita Kucherov's hot start


    The slick, sling-shot type wrist shot Nikita Kucherov used for his first goal Monday night may have stunned many at Little Caesar's Arena.

    But Kucherov, 24, has practiced it countless times. There were his 5-to-6 day a week individual workouts this summer at Brandon's Ice Sports Forum, starting in late June. Then the 40-goal scorer, never satisfied, would come home and shoot some more, thanks to the synthetic ice sheet he installed in his two-car garage....

    Nikita Kucherov is the first player in Lightning history to score a goal in each of the first five games.
  9. Luke Witkowski living 'lifelong dream' with Red Wings


    Defenseman Luke Witkowski couldn't help but take a peek at the Lightning's morning skate Monday at the brand-new Little Caesar's Arena.

    Witkowski, 27, had been with the Tampa Bay organization since getting drafted in the sixth round in 2008. He played his first 55 NHL games with the Lightning, until signing a two-year $1.5 million deal with Detroit in the summer.

    "It's nice to see some of the guys," Witkowski said. "And now play against them."...

    Luke Witkowski (28) played his first 55 NHL games with the Lightning, until signing a two-year $1.5 million deal with Detroit in the summer.
  10. Lightning's J.T. Brown spent day with Tampa police. Here's what happened

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA— TAMPA— J.T. Brown spent Friday afternoon getting shot at during a traffic stop.

    The bullets were blanks, of course, with the Lightning wing role-playing as a police officer in the Tampa Police Department's Citizens Police Academy.

    The red sedan that Brown and Lightning teammate Gabriel Dumont pulled over was missing a tag.

    They weren't expecting an ambush.

    Boom. Boom. Boom....

    Lightning forward J.T. Brown and two teammates spent the day Friday in the Tampa Police Department's Citizens Police Academy. Those who participated in that day with Brown include (from left): From left to right:
Sgt David Puig, Cpl Jared Douds, Capt Martin Gonzalez, Officer  Jarda Bradford, Lightning forwards Gabriel Dumont and J.T. Brown, in red Cpl Kim Hill, Lightning center Vladislav Namestnikov, Capt Mike Hutner, training specialist Thomas Downes.
  11. Lightning holds on to beat Blues

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Andrei Vasilevskiy is the kind of goaltender who would love to play all 82 games if he could.

    "That's nice every time when you come to the locker room and see your name on the board," Vasilevskiy said. "I like to play."

    Vasilevskiy, 23, has seen his name on the board a lot in his first full season as the Lightning's No. 1 He started his fifth straight game in nine days Saturday night against the Blues. And Vasilevskiy has handled the workload masterfully, lifting Tampa Bay to a 2-1 win in front of 19,092 at Amalie Arena....

    Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov (86) beats St. Louis Blues goalie Jake Allen (34) during the third period of Saturdays (10/14/17) game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the St, Louis Blues at Amalie Arena in Tampa.
  12. Joe Smith's takeaways from Saturday's Lightning-Blues game

    Lightning Strikes

    The Yanni Gourde-Brayden Point-Ondrej Palat line must be annoying as heck to play against. The trio once again drew the toughest defensive matchup Saturday, sticking on Blues star Vladimir Tarasenko. But Gourde, Point and Palat were also menaces in the offensive zone, creating chances.

    Tyler Johnson's second-period power-play goal was another sign that not only is he looking like his old self, but that the Lightning has two solid power-play units. Putting Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov on the first unit hasn't left the cupboard bare. Johnson and the Brayden Point line provide a dangerous second option....

  13. Lightning's Alex Killorn: With consistent effort, points will come

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — The best story of the young Lightning season is center Brayden Point.

    The best player for Tampa Bay so far is probably goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy.

    But one of the more underrated developments might be the stellar play of wing Alex Killorn. It's not just his career-high four assists Thursday in a win against the Penguins or his seven points in four games (one goal, six assists). It's how Killorn has been a force at both ends of the ice. ...

    Alex Killorn, left — with Victor Hedman, middle, and Steven Stamkos — entered Saturday tied for the team lead with seven points in the Lightning’s first four games. He has had hot starts before, including last season, and says he has learned that points can be fickle but his effort can’t be.
  14. Give Mom credit for Lightning defenseman Slater Koekkoek's breakout

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA -— Thursday's Lightning-Penguins game was about only five minutes in when Karen Koekkoek turned to her husband, Brian, as they watched from their living room in Manotick, Ontario.

    The subject was their son, Lightning defenseman Slater Koekkoek, 23, playing in just his second game this season.

    "I just said, 'Oh, all he really needs is to just get a goal,' " Karen told Brian. " 'It'll just get him going.' "...

    Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Slater Koekkoek (29) celebrates his goal, the first of the game and the first of his NHL career, beating Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Antti Niemi (31) during first period action at the Amalie Arena in Tampa Thursday evening (10/12/17). From left is defenseman Anton Stralman (6), Koekkoek, left wing Chris Kunitz (14) and center Gabriel Dumont (40). DIRK SHADD   |   Times  

  15. Lightning edges Penguins

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Watching the Lightning-Penguins showdown Thursday night in sold-out Amalie Arena, a couple of thoughts came to mind.

    These might be the top two teams in the Eastern Conference.

    And wouldn't it be fun to see this matchup in a seven-game playoff series this spring?

    The Lightning held on to beat the defending Stanley Cup champions 5-4 in a thrilling, bring-your-Rolaids kind of shootout in front of 19,092. Yes, it's only October. And yes, Pittsburgh was in the second of back-to-back games and playing its backup goalie....

    Steven Stamkos, far left, celebrates his first goal since mid November of last season with Alex Killorn (17) and Vladislav Namestnikov (90). The power-play score gives the Lightning a 3-1 lead in the second period.