ARLINGTON, Va. - Every once in a while, Brandon Carlo makes sure to take a step back and appreciate what it is that he gets to do for a living. During the grind of an 82-game National Hockey League schedule, such an approach is crucial to guarding against mental fatigue, particularly when things go a tad sideways.
"Overall, we're thankful and blessed to play this game each and every day," said Carlo. "The ups and downs are good to go through. Like today, we when we can come in here and have a great, positive attitude, I think it will just help us later on when we go through tough times."
Such has been the case in recent days for the Bruins, as they sit mired in a brief - albeit frustrating - three-game losing skid. Despite its struggles, Boston opted for a focused, but loose, approach to practice on Tuesday afternoon at the Capitals' training facility.
"I think we've had a good season so far and there's going to be stretches where you're not going to be up to your standard," said Brett Ritchie. "But I think we're pretty confident that we can turn it around quick and there's no point in dwelling on one game, two games.
"I think you just try and reset each day and today we tried to have a little extra fun and make sure everybody was positive. Especially, we're still early in this road trip, so we want to make sure we fill each other's tanks and have lots of energy."
Video: Carlo talks with media about Ovechkin, penalty kill
The Bruins certainly had plenty through much of the 40-minute session at MedStar Capitals IcePlex, which concluded with a spirited 3-on-3, small-area game in the neutral zone. As the drill wrapped up - and Tuukka Rask jokingly smashed his stick over the crossbar - the players converged for a full-on (fake) brawl, that included a pig pile at center ice.
"Today was a little looser day, we talked about a couple of things before practice," said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy, whose team remains second in the NHL standings behind Washington. "Listen, our record is very good, but we've got to get back to enjoying our game a little more while taking care of business and balancing the two.
"We all are aware - every man in that room, all the coaches know - we're not playing to our standard every night. We get pockets of it like a lot teams, but that's our goal now, to get to standard. Maybe today helps us a little, having a little bit of fun on the ice at the end of practice."
Like Carlo, Boston's bench boss believes that, especially when a slump sets in, it's imperative to put everything into perspective.
"We use the word grateful a lot. I think we all lose sight of that," said Cassidy. "For me personally, I get to coach probably the best group of men I've ever been around, a team I grew up idolizing. I think sometimes you forget that when you get short-tempered. I think players sometimes forget it when things don't go their way…in general, we try to use that word when things get a little bumpy."
Not only will Wednesday night's nationally televised matchup between the Bruins (46 points) and Capitals (49 points) be a showdown of the first- and second-ranked teams in the National Hockey League, it will also pit the league's top two goal scorers against each other.
Despite a three-game goal-less stretch, David Pastrnak still paces the NHL with 25 goals, four clear of Washington superstar Alex Ovechkin.
"Obviously Ovi's farther along than Pasta, but Pasta is now being talked about in the same breath," said Cassidy. "I think it's good for the fans, they enjoy seeing two top guys go at it. Only Pasta can answer it, but I assume he looks at it like a challenge…I think it helps get you going a little bit."
On Monday night at the Board of Governors meetings in California, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced plans to create programs "aimed at sensitizing team personnel and players to abusive behavior of any kind," according to the NHL.com. The announcement came on the heels of recent revelations regarding abusive behavior by coaches at various levels of the sport.
Cassidy was fully on board with the league's plans and reiterated that he aims to foster a respectful workplace both on the bench and in the dressing room.
"I feel we've always - the players can only speak to it - we've created a good culture here in terms of safe workplace, appropriate workplace," said Cassidy. "Listen, as a coach, I feel our staff, we're tough at times, but we're fair. We want to hold them accountable, but not in the manner of what guys have gotten let go for.
"We're not putting our hands on the players, we're not using racial slurs in the locker room. We're just trying to make them better players and better people, and we feel like treating them like people first is the most important way to go.
"That's how I felt we've handled our locker room, hopefully the players back that up…I think coaches have to be a little more respectful from the stories that are coming out, and hopefully that's what happens."
Video: Cassidy talks power play, team mentality in D.C.
Tuesday's Practice Lineup
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk - David Krejci - Brett Ritchie
Anders Bjork - Charlie Coyle - Danton Heinen
Joakim Nordstrom - Sean Kuraly - Chris Wagner
Par Lindholm - David Backes
Zdeno Chara - Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug - Brandon Carlo
John Moore - Matt Grzelcyk