Sitting at the foot of the North Division with a record four games below parity, a strong run of results on the upcoming six-game road trip is required for the Toronto Marlies to get themselves back into playoff contention.

That journey begins with a three-in-three weekend in which they will face only Atlantic Division opponents. There is an opportunity here for the Marlies to make up ground against the bottom three teams in the Atlantic, with just one holding a winning record entering the weekend.

Without Kasperi Kapanen, it can’t all be on Brendan Leipsic to produce offense. Unfortunately, just three current Marlies have managed to break into the double digits in scoring this season. The powerplay, which has been stumbling in the last couple of weeks, needs to find its feet and will have an opportunity to get going against three opponents with average or below average penalty killing.

At the other end of the ice, the message should be clear: Keep it simple and eliminate the own-zone turnovers that are providing opposition with far too many goal scoring opportunities on the cheap. That’s especially relevant when Toronto will be facing opponents who have trouble manufacturing offense on their own.

Toronto Marlies at Hartford Wolf Pack – Friday, January 20, 7:15 pm EST

This will be the fourth and final game of the season between these two teams, with Toronto holding a 2-1 series lead. Both victories were attained via 5-2 score lines while the lone defeat was a 3-2 reverse on home ice.

The Wolf Pack are also at bottom of their division with a record of 14-21-3-1 for just 32 points. Keeping the puck out has been their biggest problem this season — they’ve allowed 135 goals, which is the most by any team in the Eastern Conference.

While they’ve amassed a poorer record on home ice than on the road, Hartford has a regulation win and an OT loss in their last two outings at the XL Center.

The biggest threat on the Hartford roster — far and away — is Nicklas Jensen this season. The left winger has 18 goals and 10 assists and is the team’s leading scorer by a nine-point margin.

Defenseman Mat Bodie and Ryan Graves have both accrued 19 points from the blue line and are tied for second in scoring with forwards Adam Tambellini and Justin Fontaine. Centreman Marek Hrivik has proven an excellent addition to the roster with 17 points in 20 games, including eight goals.

In net, the Wolf Pack have continued to ride Magnus Hellberg, who amazingly has a winning record of 10-9-4 and a save percentage of .905, despite the team’s overall struggles.

Toronto Marlies at Bridgeport Sound Tigers – Saturday, January 21, 7:00 p.m. EST

Toronto and Bridgeport will do battle for the first time since the first round of the 2016 Calder Cup playoffs. Their record is four games over .500 at the time of writing (19-15-1-1), which would be good for third place in the North Division. However, they sit fifth in the stronger Atlantic and are chasing the coattails of four other teams with a points percentage of .603 or better.

The Sound Tigers have had better success on the road thus far, with a record of just one game over parity on home ice and a minus-five goal differential. They’ve also lost two straight at the Webster Bank Arena heading into the weekend.

Bridgeport have accrued 620 penalty minutes this season and have found themselves shorthanded 175 times (fourth highest in the league). A decent PK unit has seen them only allow 31 goals while also racking up seven shorthanded goals in the process.

Much like the Marlies, generating consistent offense has been a problem for the Sound Tigers as they look to climb the standings. Bracken Kearns and Steve Bernier both have 13 goals apiece and a combined eleven of those have been scored on a struggling powerplay (15.5%). Rookie Devon Toews has recorded 24 points from the blue line and is one five first-year professionals among Bridgeport’s top seven scorers.

Christopher Gibson recently underwent surgery and is a big absence between the pipes, with Stephon Williams and rookie Eamon McAdam unable to get the job done so far. However, the New York Islanders recently sent down Jaroslav Halask and he’s been excellent in the AHL of late — a 0.927 save percentage has seen him beaten in regulation only once in four starts.

Toronto Marlies at Springfield Thunderbirds — Sunday, January 22, 3:00 PM

Sunday’s matinee game will be the first encounter between the Marlies and the Springfield Thunderbirds. Formerly the Portland Pirates and affiliated to the Florida Panthers, this is the Thunderbirds’ inaugural AHL season.

Springfield began the year brightly, holding 7-4-1-0 and 10-8-3-2 records but have dropped off from that early form to now sit exactly at .500. That’s in part due to a wretched home form that seen them fail to win any of the last six games (0-4-2) at the MassMutual Center.

Scorers of just 93 goals this season, it’s easy to see why Springfield have found winning a difficult task of late. In exactly half their games, the Thunderbirds been held to two goals or less and have been shut out twice. Their powerplay is the league’s third-worst at 14.3%.

Not one Thunderbird player has hit the ten goal mark this season, with defenseman MacKenzie Weegar leading the way with nine.

Duties between the pipes have been split between Reto Berra and Mike McKenna. The former has fared much better this season with a 9-8-2 record and a 0.918 save percentage.