The Colorado Avalanche is down to its final preseason contest, and several players are still on the bubble to make the team's opening-night lineup.
Colorado has 27 players on its roster and will need to get down to the league-mandated 23 by Tuesday. The Avs reassigned forward JT Compher and defensemen Chris Bigras and Anton Lindholm to the San Antonio Rampage on Thursday, but all of them could soon see themselves back in the NHL.
"All three of the guys that we let go, I think have promising futures right now with the depth of the organization and where it is going," said Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar. "[They're] important pieces for the future, and they need to go play and be impact players for the time being until they can come up here and help us win on a nightly basis."
In past years, the Avs have had an active roster with 13 forwards and eight defensemen, but Bednar hasn't committed on staying with that alignment or going with 14 forwards and seven defensemen.
Either way, the Avalanche will need to reduce its squad, which currently consists of 17 forwards, eight defensemen and two goaltenders.
The players' last chance to show that they belong in the NHL in a game-like atmosphere is Saturday in Las Vegas in the annual but final Frozen Fury contest against the Los Angeles Kings.
Ben Smith, who signed with Colorado in the offseason after splitting last year between the AHL and NHL, is one of the forwards on the bubble and is looking to keep playing consistent hockey in the final few days of training camp.
"I've been saying it all along through camp. Just having good days, every day. Just try to piece them together," Smith said. "Wherever you are living, wherever you are, you just focus on playing hockey. That's the main thing. I've been doing it my whole life here, my seventh year pro. Having confidence in what I can bring to the locker room and on the ice and just try to enjoy it."
Video: Ben Smith on being a roster hopeful
On defense, the odds seem to be in favor of Duncan Siemens, the No. 11 overall draft pick by Colorado from 2011. The Sherwood Park, Alberta, native is one of the eight rear guards still in Denver, but he's not taking anything for granted.
"The way I'm taking my approach to this is that you're never safe," Siemens said. "Even if you're here opening night, you could be gone the next day. Each day you're here, you have to earn your keep and make sure that you're giving them a reason to keep you around."
This has been the longest that Siemens has been through the preseason with the Avs in his six years with the organization, and he hopes it stays that way.
"To still be here this late, it's a good feeling, but that's not my goal," Siemens said. "My goal is to be here throughout the year and definitely try and start the season here. I think just trying to progress and take it a day at a time. Try and not get too far ahead of myself and make that decision as difficult as I can on the guys upstairs."
Siemens is more of a stay-at-home defender and isn't expected to put up a lot of points. He had one goal and six assists in 53 AHL contests last season and has only totaled 17 points (two goals and 15 assists) in his three professional campaigns in Colorado's minor-league system.
Video: Duncan Siemens talks Avs roster
One of the things that Siemens has done that Bednar likes is that he's not trying to be something that he's not.
"My first dealings with him, obviously, but he's an intelligent defender," Bednar noted. "He knows what he is, and he plays to his identity. I think he's a doing a good job. A more experienced pro than the young guys that we sent down."
Colorado does have a few minor injuries that could work in the favor of some players trying to make the squad.
Blake Comeau, John Mitchell and Mikko Rantanen all skated Friday, but none were full participants in practice.
The Avs have time on their side, as their season opener on Saturday, Oct. 15, is one of the latest in the league, a full week after the club's final preseason contest.
"This time of the year, we don't want to push guys through groins and hips and stuff like that," Bednar said. "We're fortunate, depending on how you look at it, that we have a whole week of practice next week still. So even though tomorrow is our last exhibition game, we still have time to get ready for next Saturday and with those guys on the ice if they can progress far enough with their injuries."
Comeau has a groin injury, while Mitchell is out because of his hip flexor. Rantanen's ankle is still bothering him after he hurt it in the Rookie Showcase game against the San Jose Sharks on Sept. 17. His timetable was two-to-four weeks, so he is still on track to play opening night if he gets healthy.
Bednar, though, is taking the day-by-day approach with the organization's first-round draft choice from 2015.
"It is going to depend on how he feels every morning when he comes in," Bednar responded when asked if Rantanen will be in the opener against the Dallas Stars. "Sometimes you push it, and you have to take a step back. Sometimes if it feels good, you can keep going. We'll find out later next week."
If any of the injured players aren't healthy by next Tuesday, Colorado could place them on injured reserve, which allows them to not count against the team's active roster-opening up more spots in the lineup for others.
Video: Coach Bednar's post-practice talk