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Detroit — Just a baby step.

Johan Franzen skated with the rest of the Red Wings during practice Tuesday. It was the first time he's done that since he injured his groin Oct. 17.

"It's not great," Franzen said of the injury. "But, it was the first time skating with the team, so that's a good thing."

Coach Mike Babcock said he thought Franzen might be ready to play in a couple of days, but he knows better than to get his hopes up too high.

"Anytime you've been out, it doesn't matter who you are, it's tough getting back in," Babcock said. "The Mule is training like crazy, but when you get back in, your fitness for skating isn't the same. There's nothing you can do about that. Still, it was good to see him out there."

Franzen won't play in Washington on Wednesday nor, most likely, Friday against the Kings.

"Today was a step forward," he said. "I tried a few strides at 100 percent or close to it, but it didn't feel good, even then. So I backed off a little bit."

He said he would travel with the team to Washington and skate Wednesday morning. But he still wasn't prepared to say when he might be back.

"I don't know," Franzen said. "I want to skate a couple more days and then see where I am at."

Weiss to Grand Rapids

The Wings have sent veteran Stephen Weiss to its AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids on a conditioning assignment.

He has played in just one game this season, coming back from offseason core muscle surgery. He played in just 26 games last season. He hasn't played a game in the AHL since 2004-2005 when he was with both San Antonio Rampage and the Chicago Wolves.

Weiss is expected to be in the Griffins lineup Wednesday when they host Rockford and again Friday against the Wolves.

Better than expected?

The Red Wings have a chance to pull 14 points out of the month of October. That might exceed even the most optimistic expectations, considering the Wings have played some of the top teams in the Eastern Conference (Boston twice, Pittsburgh, at Washington, Philadelphia and Montreal, plus games against Western Conference Anaheim and, on Friday, Los Angeles).

"I haven't even thought about that," defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. "Sure, we've played a lot of good teams, but we feel we're a good team in here. So, we feel we stack up against anybody, to be honest. When we skate, we know we can compete with the best and we should be right up there.

"We're off to a good start, but we have to keep it going."

Babcock put it this way.

"We dropped our last game," he said. "We need a bounce-back now. We feel we can be way better as a team. So let's keep getting better."

Ice chips

…Babcock said Jimmy Howard would start in goal against the Capitals.

…There were no changes to the line combinations at practice Tuesday. Gustav Nyquist and Justin Abdelkader skated on the first line with Henrik Zetterberg. Pavel Datsyuk centered the second line with Tomas Tatar and Darren Helm. Riley Sheahan centered Andrej Nestrasil and Tomas Jurco on the third line, and the fourth line remains center Luke Glendening between Joakin Anderssson and Drew Miller.

…Former Red Wing Tomas Holmstrom visited practice. He has moved his family back to Sweden, where he coaches his sons' hockey teams. He said he also works with the Swedish national 16-under elite team.

Asked what he thought of the current Wings team, he said, "I like the team, for sure. It's so fast. Probably lucky I retired when I did."

Preview: Red Wings at Capitals

Faceoff: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Verizon Center, Washington, D.C.

TV/radio: NBCSN/97.1

Records: Capitals (4-2-2), Red Wings (4-2-2)

Update: The Red Wings have played 104 games against Barry Trotz-coached teams — all of those when he was coaching Nashville. This will be the first time they face a Trotz-coach Capitals team.

"I imagine their attention to detail defensively will be heightened just because that's how Trotsy likes his guys to play," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. Alex Ovechkin already has five goals, and the Wings haven't won in Washington since Dec. 9, 2005 (0-3-1).

chris.mccosky@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/cmccosky

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