Jimmy Howard nearly got decapitated in the first period and got bulldozed in the second, but nothing dented him except a few goals.

Continuing what has been a strong season -- and a strong-man's effort -- Howard delivered 23 saves to give the Red Wings a satisfying 5-3 victory Friday night at Joe Louis Arena over the hard-charging Blues.

"He really good, he give us good chance for third period," Pavel Datsyuk said.

Coach Mike Babcock said Howard will get his eighth straight start of the season tonight at Columbus.

"He's been good for us and given us a chance each and every night," Babcock said. "We're not quite as smooth as we'd like to be some nights, we give up some chances, so the goalie has had to be good."

Howard also has had to be the go-to guy, even when the Wings played back-to-back games, even when they played three games in four nights. Jonas Gustavsson, acquired during the off-season in the hopes of providing a stable backup presence, has a sore groin. Minor league veteran Joey MacDonald, who had some solid outings in relief last season, has a sore back.

As Babcock said Friday: "There's no light at the end of the tunnel with the goaltenders."

So, it has been all Howard, all the time, save the third period of the opener when he was relieved by a then-healthy Gustavsson, not a reflection on Howard but because his teammates played so poorly.

The workload makes Howard laugh, because "you figured you were done playing threes-in-fours regularly when you got away from the American league," he said. "But it's fun."