In the third consecutive preseason game during which prized rookie Nathan MacKinnon was scratched because of a hip flexor injury Brad Malone and Guillaume Desbiens clanged first-period shots off posts and Marc-Andre Cliche had plenty of opportunities on a scoring line as the battle for the final Avalanche opening-night roster spots played out at the Pepsi Center on Tuesday night.

Malone centered the fourth line against the Dallas Stars and scored his second goal of the preseason giving him a team-best-tying two goals in three games. Desbiens played left wing with veterans John Mitchell and P.A. Parenteau and Cliche played right wing with Paul Stastny and Gabe Landeskog.

Dallas won 5-3 scoring four consecutive times to break a scoreless tie within the first 10 minutes of the second period on goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere. Landeskog had Colorado's first goal and Stastny made it 4-3 late in the third.

The Avs who earlier Tuesday reassigned center Paul Carey to Lake Erie of the American Hockey League and 18-year-old defenseman Chris Bigras back to his junior team have 15 forwards on the roster and they'll cut at least one maybe two — depending on how many defensemen they keep.

Teams go with 14 forwards/seven defensemen or 13 forwards/eight defensemen plus two goalies to make up the 23-man roster.

First-year coach Patrick Roy previously said MacKinnon the No. 1 overall draft pick in June will stick with the Avs this season and his absence has been precautionary. Roy expects the 18-year-old to play in the final two preseason games: Thursday at Dallas and Saturday against the Los Angeles Kings in Las Vegas.

Opening night is Oct. 2 at home against the Anaheim Ducks.

Cliche might have the best chance at being the 13th forward given his one-way contract ($537500) and right-handed shot. The Avs are a little thin at right wing. But Malone is having a great preseason in his third pro season.

Colorado has six defensemen on NHL contracts plus Nick Holden Nate Guenin Stefan Elliott and Tyson Barrie on two-way deals that pay far less in the minor leagues. Barrie has the best chance to stick with the Avs for opening night and if the team keeps eight defensemen one of the others come into play.