Brendan Smith has spent the past few weeks working on the cerebral part of his game. He has mended from a separated shoulder and used the recovery time to figure out how to be a smarter player.

Smith is expected to be one of seven defensemen the Detroit Red Wings will use Tuesday, when they host the Nashville Predators (7:30 p.m., FS-Plus). Coach Mike Babcock said today he expects to have only 11 forwards available. Daniel Alfredsson has missed two games with a sore groin, and while he didn't rule himself out after skating on his own after practice, teams tend to err on precaution's side when it comes to groins. Forward Stephen Weiss, also dealing with a groin, is hopeful to play by the end of the week.

Danny DeKeyser sat out practice because he has flu, general manager Ken Holland told the Free Press. "Hopefully, good to play."

The Wings are looking to overturn an overall six-game winless streak and a six-game winless streak at Joe Louis Arena. The Wings haven't won a game since Nov. 2 in Edmonton, which happens to be the game in which Smith got hurt. Babcock made a point of that, noting that while Jonathan Ericsson and Johan Franzen also were out for parts of that stretch, Smith's value on the back end shouldn't be overlooked.

"We were rolling along, winning, Smitty got hurt, and we didn't win," Babcock said. "Now you can say, 'Oh, Big E was out and Mule was out.' But it just goes to show you: Your back end has got to be able to move the puck for you. Smitty can move the puck."

The problem has been Smith's inefficiency without the puck. He's a minus-7 after 11 games, with just one assist. He was a healthy scratch in the fifth game of the season, after racking up a minus-4. It didn't go over well within the organization when Smith said that that rating wasn't because there had been a breakdown on his side. It went over much better when Smith, speaking in Winnipeg two days after he hurt his shoulder, said he would spend the recovery time studying.

Smith zeroed in especially on Niklas Kronwall, whose game benefited from a decade spent playing with Nicklas Lidstrom.