In sports, threes are frequently uplifting. A triple play in baseball. A 3-point shot in basketball. A hat trick in hockey.
The treble that the Detroit Red Wings are about to embark upon, though, figures to be far more arduous than rewarding.
Beginning Sunday afternoon at Joe Louis Arena, the Red Wings will play three games in three days. They face the Minnesota Wild at home before heading to Carolina for back-to-back meetings with the Hurricanes on Monday and Tuesday.
"It will be different," Detroit left winger Justin Abdelkader said. "It will be nice the game on Sunday is at 12:30 (p.m.) so we can get in (to Carolina) at a decent time. But we've definitely gotta make sure we're taking care of our bodies.
"We're getting ready for a tough three games. It's a lot of hockey coming up so we gotta make sure we take of ourselves."
While three games in three nights is not unheard of in hockey -- in fact it is commonplace in the minor leagues and the junior ranks -- in the NHL it is outlawed by the CBA between the owners and players.
The players on the Red Wings, who on Monday are making up a Dec. 19 game that was postponed due to an issue with the compressor that cools the ice surface at PNC Arena, both were required to sign off on the need to play three games in three nights.
"It is what it is," Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg said. "We've got three in three. It's a first for some but the good thing is we're in the same city for the last two.
"I'd rather play than practice."
For the Detroit players who came up through the Canadian junior leagues, playing three times in three days is nothing new, and they were doing so while traveling by bus.
"I've definitely played a few three in threes," said Red Wings forward Andreas Athanasiou, who skated in the Ontario Hockey League with the London Knights and Barrie Colts. "I think fueling the body is such a big thing and getting the rest. Any chance you've got to get some rest, you've got to take it."
It's been a rough go of late for the Wild, who are 2-9-0 in their last 11 games and 1-5-0 in their last six road games.
"When we're on top of our game we're really simplified," Wild coach Bruce Boudreau told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. "We get it out, we get it in, we're not trying to be fancy."
Theoretically, the Red Wings should hold the edge on Sunday. The Wild will be coming to Detroit after Saturday's 4-2 home loss to the Vancouver Canucks and will be playing the second of back-to-back games. But Minnesota is 6-4-2 in the second half of back-to-backs
On Friday, the Red Wings fell 2-1 in overtime to the Tampa Bay Lighting, a team that came to Detroit after winning 6-3 the previous night in Boston.
"Obviously I think we came out with a slow start the first period, had four shots on net," Abdelkader said. "That's not good enough, especially against a team playing back-to-back.
"We've gotta come out, start off stronger."
Detroit is 6-5-1 in the second game of two games in consecutive nights.