DENVER — The goaltending is set. The defense is, too. The forwards still have questions that need to be answered.

With an entire week between the preseason finale and next week’s season opener, the Avalanche have plenty of time to figure out who’s going to fill out the bottom of their forward lineup.

In Wednesday’s 2-1 victory over the Dallas Stars, head coach Jared Bednar used a fourth line of Lukas Sedlak, Anton Blidh and Martin Kaut. Ben Meyers centered the third line between two regulars in Andrew Cogliano and Logan O’Connor. Young forwards Shane Bowers and Mikhail Maltsev did not dress

Gabriel Landeskog is expected to miss the beginning of the season, and possibly Darren Helm as well. Colorado entered training camp with one forward spot already up for grabs and without two of its veterans, that list has grown to three. (J.T. Compher did not dress against Dallas but is not expected to be out for long).

Who from the depth guys will get the first look against the Chicago Blackhawks? Let’s try to make a case for each one:

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Mikhail Maltsev — This is the easiest one to start with because, well, Maltsev is the least likely to play. The 24-year-old has been fine throughout camp but hasn’t stood out in any kind of way. Bednar was asked about Maltsev throughout camp and has reiterated time and time again that his pace is not there.

On a team that skates like the Avalanche, that’s not going to cut it. Expect Maltsev to be one of the final roster cuts during Colorado’s two days off, Thursday and Friday.

Shane Bowers — Perhaps the biggest question mark of the bunch, Shane Bowers is looking to break through and finally make his NHL debut. It’s something Bednar said could happen this season, but it’s unclear if he’s going to get that chance straight away.

If Bowers doesn’t crack the opening lineup, look for him to be an early season call up.

Martin Kaut — If anything was to keep Bowers out of the opening night lineup, it’s the development of Kaut in camp. Although Kaut’s not been as consistent as hoped, he seems to be the prospect that has stood out most.

The injuries to Landeskog and Helm could give Kaut a chance to prove he belongs. But alternatively, if Kaut does crack the opening night roster and doesn’t take advantage of his first chance, he might find his way lower down the depth chart when Helm and Landeskog return.

Lukas Sedlak — Sedlak’s NHL experience makes me believe he’s all but guaranteed to play on opening night. The 29-year-old is also a centerman and has assumed the role of centering the fourth line in Helm’s absence.

He won’t wow you with his game but he’s a solid depth piece that can also pitch in on the penalty kill.

Anton Blidh — Like Bowers, it’s hard to gauge where Blidh’s fate will land before the season opener. On one hand, he’s 27 years old and a veteran of 72 games looking for an opportunity to prove he should be an everyday player. But on the other hand, he didn’t start camp. Although it’s worth noting, Bednar sang his praises following Colorado’s 3-1 victory in Dallas on Monday.

Ben Meyers — I can’t think of a single depth chart heading into training camp that didn’t have Meyers penciled in on the third line. And I mean, why wouldn’t he be? Meyers was Colorado’s big college free agent signing last spring and even scored in his regular-season debut.

But his sometimes underwhelming camp performance has put his spot back in question. When asked about spots up for grabs in the opening night lineup, Bednar often references Meyers as part of the group fighting for positioning. On one hand, it shows that he hasn’t separated himself from the pack, but on the other hand, it could be a coach ensuring that a young rookie isn’t getting too comfortable.

I’d expect Meyers to play on the third line with Compher and Logan O’Connor come Oct. 12. Meyers assisted on O’Connor’s third-period goal against the Stars.

But then again, we all expected Alex Newhook to crack last year’s opening night lineup. He ended up spending the first few weeks with the Eagles before getting called up and sticking the rest of the way.

Aarif Deen is our Colorado Avalanche beat reporter. He covers Avs games live from Ball Arena and attends practices, media availabilities and other events pertaining to the Avs on the daily beat. He is also a co-host of Hockey Mountain High: Your go-to Avalanche Podcast. Deen joined Mile High Sports upon completion of his bachelor’s degree in journalism and master’s in business administration from the University of Michigan – Dearborn. Before Mile High Sports, Deen worked for the Michigan Wolverines Athletics Department as the assistant sports information director.

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