The Toronto Marlies took to the bus early this week as they practiced in Boston to prepare themselves for a three-in-three weekend on the road.
It’s the first of six occasions this season that the Marlies will face this intense AHL weekend schedule, two of which will involve all three games away from the confines of Ricoh Coliseum.
What they have going for them this weekend is that the travel between games is less than a two-hour drive and the opponents they are facing will be equally as tired, having played just as many times throughout the weekend.
The opposition comes in the form of Atlantic Division teams against whom Toronto had a mixed record last year.
Oct. 13, 7:15 pm ET — Toronto Marlies at Hartford Wolf Pack
Toronto will start off the weekend with a game against the Hartford Wolf Pack at the XL Center. Last season’s four-game series was split down the middle as Hartford picked up two of their paltry 24 wins against Toronto.
The Wolf Pack are 1-1-0 this season, having fallen 5-4 on home ice to Charlotte Checkers before earning a hard-fought shootout victory against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
Adam Tambellini has already hit the net twice, including a power-play marker as well as a goal in the shootout.
The Marlies are likely to face Chris Nell between the pipes, who stopped 28 of 29 shots to earn the shootout win.
Oct. 14, 7:05 pm EDT — Toronto Marlies at Providence Bruins
A Saturday showdown with the Providence Bruins should be an entertaining match-up if the previous history is anything to go by. Toronto lost 5-3 on the road last season but exacted their revenge by taking a 4-3 overtime victory at Ricoh.
Heading into the weekend, the Bruins have only played once but face off at home Friday evening against Springfield. The two teams have already met once — a 5-2 Providence victory in which four Bruins players enjoyed multi-point games. Among those with two points was last season’s leading AHL scorer Kenny Agostino (then with Chicago).
Despite Malcolm Subban getting claimed off of waivers by Vegas, Providence has depth at their goaltending position with Zane McIntyre and Jordan Binnington (on loan from St. Louis Blues) to choose from.
Oct. 15, 7:05 p.m. ET – Toronto Marlies at Springfield Thunderbirds
A matinee encounter with Springfield on Sunday will round out the weekend. The Thunderbirds will also be at the end of a three-in-three after travelling to Providence Friday evening before returning to play Hartford on home ice the following day.
Toronto won both games against Springfield last year, including a hard-fought 2-1 victory at the MassMutual Center which helped turn their season around. The Thunderbirds’ loss to Providence is their lone outing at the time of writing, with the only bright spot being former Utica forward Alexandre Grenier registering a pair of assists on Springfield’s goals.
Goaltender Harri Sateri struggled in his return to the AHL after three seasons away, allowing five goals on 26 shots. Florida’s affiliate can also turn to 20-year-old Samuel Montembeault, with the rookie netminder due to receive his first taste of professional hockey this weekend.
Having dressed identical line-ups in two victories again Utica, expect Sheldon Keefe to integrate some players who missed out during the opening weekend into his lineups this weekend. That includes defensemen Martin Marincin and Michael Paliotta and rookie forward Jeremy Bracco.
You can also add Calvin Pickard to that list, as the newly-acquired goaltender has been a part of the squad practicing in Boston. It’s not inconceivable that Keefe could give playing time to all three netminders as Toronto continues to carry Kasimir Kaskisuo on the roster.
Having struggled on the road last year — clambering to .500 by the season’s end (18-18-2) — Toronto will be striving for a positive start away from Ricoh as they’ll play just two games at home between now and the third week of November.