Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said recently that his team will go only far as Jimmy Howard takes them.

That might be true, but right now, Jonas Gustavsson is taking them to the win column more often. The backup goaltender has played better than Howard this season, and is earning more playing time.

Gustavsson is 7-0-1, his only blemish a 5-4 shootout loss at the New York Islanders on Nov. 16. He will start Friday at New Jersey, when the Red Wings look to bounce back from a 6-3 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers.

“We got to win games and he’s doing that right now for us, so the bottom line is he’s starting (Friday) and we’re going to watch the game, and he’s been real good for us,” Babcock said. “He’s found a way to get hit by pucks and we’ve found a way to win.

“I don’t know if it’s because we’ve relaxed more on the road; I don’t know the answer to those questions. I just know we’re in the winning business, we need points.”

Gustavsson has a 2.16 goals-against average and .929 save percentage, compared to Howard’s 2.70 GAA and .909 save percentage.

Gustavsson said he hopes he is pushing Howard for playing time.

“That’s my goal, to try to push him and he’s definitely pushing me,” Gustavsson said. “I know I got to play real well to even be considered playing in net. I’m just trying to do my part as any other guy, trying to do as good as I can and try to push the other guys. It’s been working great so far.”

Howard is 6-8-6. He experienced a career-long seven-game winless streak from Nov. 4-23 (0-3-4) before making 29 saves in a 5-0 victory at the Islanders last Friday.