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NHL-Five players to watch in the 2013-14 NHL season


Sept 27 (Reuters) - Five players to watch in the 2013-14 National Hockey League (NHL) season which starts on Tuesday:

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After a slow start to last season, Ovechkin caught fire and carried the Capitals through the second half of the campaign to the playoffs. He won the Rocket Richard Trophy as the NHL's top goal scorer and also the Hart Trophy as the game's most valuable player.

If Ovechkin can maintain that form for the upcoming season, the Capitals could very well be one of the last teams standing in June. The Russian sniper will be determined to be in top form especially since he will be representing his country when it hosts the Olympics in February.

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Perhaps no other player faces as much pressure this season as Luongo, a struggling goalie who wanted to be traded earlier this year but surprisingly regained his starting role when the Canucks traded Cory Schneider in the offseason.

Luongo backstopped Canada to an Olympic gold medal in 2010 and led the Canucks to the Stanley Cup Final in 2011 but failed to maintain that form as he fell into the backup role. With the 2014 Sochi Olympics on the horizon, Luongo will have the added incentive to play well and maintain his spot on the national team.

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At six-feet nine-inches (2.06m), the Bruins captain is the tallest player in the NHL and widely considered the game's best shutdown defenseman. Chara boasts the league's hardest shot and is able to stay on the ice for nearly half a game most nights.

The 36-year-old Chara will also anchor Slovakia's team at Sochi where they look to build on a fourth place finish in 2010 and earn their first ice hockey medal since becoming an independent nation in 1993.

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The Penguins captain, with 56 points in 36 games, was the unanimous favourite to win the Hart Trophy as the league's most valuable player last season until a jaw injury forced him to miss the last part of the shortened 48-game regular season.

For Crosby, carrying over that form into the new season will be crucial as he looks to capture a second Stanley Cup and lead Canada to a successful defense of the Olympic gold medal it won in 2010 when he scored the overtime winner against the U.S.

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The 43-year-old "Finnish Flash" announced he would return for his 21st and final NHL season in a hilarious video posted on his team's website showing him struggling at golf before calling Anaheim's general manager to say: "I'm coming back. Yeah, but this is it. This is my final one."

Selanne, who ranks 11th in the NHL with 675 career goals, offers veteran leadership to the team's younger players and will be eager to be in top shape as he hopes to play for Finland in Sochi in what would be his sixth Olympics. (Compiled by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Julian Linden)

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