Auditions have concluded, and the fates of players young and old rest in the hands of Blackhawks management.

The Hawks ended their eight-game exhibition schedule Sunday night by falling to the Colorado Avalanche 4-3 in overtime before 18,053 fans at the United Center.

Coaches and management huddled after the game to finalize the roster and let players know whether they'd be headed to New York for the 2008-09 season opener Friday night against the Rangers.

"It's a tough day," coach Denis Savard said of having to cut players. "It's the worst part of the job, but that's the way it is."

Savard said the team was likely to begin the season with 23 players and was still deciding the breakdown of forwards, defensemen and goaltenders. The team will decide whether to carry seven or eight defensemen along with two goalies and the rest forwards.

Prospects Kris Versteeg, Jack Skille and Joakim Lindstrom, in the mix for the final wing spots, were in the lineup against the Avalanche. Versteeg had a goal. Skille and Lindstrom, who made his Hawks debut after being claimed off waivers Friday from Anaheim, were held off the scoresheet.

"I came in here thinking that if I worked hard enough and used my skills … to make plays, maybe I could have a good chance at making it," Versteeg said. "If not I'll go back to Rockford and work hard again and try to get called up and try to be an asset to the team."

Kyle Beach, 18, the Hawks' first-round pick in the 2008 draft, didn't make the team. He's off to Everett of the Western Hockey League.

"I played as well as I could," he said. "It helped me move forward in my career and know what the next level is and what I need to do."

With the Hawks in a holding pattern with veteran goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin and his $6.75 million contract, Monday could be a pivotal day in determining the team's direction. If the veteran decides to play in Russia or is traded, the Hawks would have plenty of room to maneuver under the salary cap. If he remains with the Hawks, general manager Dale Tallon must find a way to fit the players he wants with the $1.5 million the team is under the cap.

The game: Versteeg, Patrick Sharp and Martin Havlat scored in the loss to Colorado. The Hawks finished 5-1-2 in exhibitions.

ckuc@tribune.com