The former Leeds and Manchester United midfielder was forced to sit out Saturday's 2-1 victory at Doncaster and Hughton believes his side are not the same without their combative skipper.
Smith's win-at-all-costs attitude marks him out as a natural leader and Newcastle are hoping he can steer clear of injury and suspension this term as they continue in their quest to secure an immediate return to the Premier League.
Hughton told the club's official website: "Alan Smith is a big player for us and he was disappointed to miss out at Doncaster.
"In hindsight, you would rather have all your players available but the type of player Alan is, and due to his competitive nature, it goes with the territory.
"We want him available but we also want him to continue what he does for the team.
"He has often been the heartbeat of the team this season and we wouldn't want to change any of that. His competitive nature is also something fans like to see."