The Duck defense figured to take a hit when Ruslan Salei and Pascal Trepanier were suspended by the NHL for illegal checks against Dallas centers Mike Modano and Joe Nieuwendyk on Oct. 2.
But the defense has been perhaps the steadiest part of the Ducks' game this season. Only once in seven games have the Ducks given up more than three goals, and that was in a 4-0 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes.
To be sure, the Ducks miss Salei's edgy style of play. Salei has four games left to serve on his 10-game suspension and won't be eligible to play until Oct. 29 against the Washington Capitals.
"We miss his strength," Coach Craig Hartsburg said. "He wins his one-on-one battles and he's strong around the net."
Pavel Trnka, in particular, has improved his play during Salei's absence. Plus, Trepanier returned Saturday from his five-game suspension.
"He's more confident and more assertive in his play," Hartsburg said of Trnka. "I think he's taken a step up in his play. It's a pretty good fit with him and Oleg [Tverdovsky as a defense pairing]. Like a lot of our young players, he's getting more and more confident in his game."