Two important pieces to the Red Wings lineup appear close to returning.

Forward Johan Franzen (hip flexor) and defenseman Brendan Smith (shoulder sprain) skated on their own after the Red Wings' team skate Tuesday morning and reported progress.

Franzen, in particular, hopes to return for Thursday's game against Columbus. Smith could be ready next week when the Red Wings travel to Los Angeles and San Jose.

Tuesday night's game in Nashville will be the fourth consecutive game Franzen has missed, but there likely won't be too many more.

"I've skated (hard) the last few days here — no problems, really," Franzen said.

"That's what it feels like," he added of a Thursday return.

For both Franzen and Smith (who was hurt Feb. 2 in Columbus), the key now is whether their injuries can withstand physical battles. Both have yet to test it in practice.

"It's getting better every day but it's hard to speculate because I haven't done much contact," Smith said. "That's the big issue with anything: Can you deal with the contact? I'm not sure yet."

Smith admitted, "I'm not ready yet," adding his type of injury usually takes 3-4 weeks, which would take him into next week's road trip.

Lineup changes

Coach Mike Babcock said the lone personnel change for Tuesday night's game against the Predators is replacing defenseman Kent Huskins with Jakub Kindl.

It's a reverseal from Sunday's game in Minnesota, where Huskins played.

The power play will have a different look as Mikael Samuelsson goes to one of the points on the No. 1 unit (dropping Damien Brunner to the second unit), while Tomas Tatar becomes a net-front player on the second unit.

Babcock wants to see Samuelsson aggressively shoot the puck.

"He gives us a real good shot from the point and we haven't had that," Babcock said. "Ideally he can get that group going. He knows he's there to shoot it and that's a big thing for us."

From The Detroit News: