The Russian hockey club Lokomotiv Yaroslavl has filed a lawsuit in U.S. federal court against the NHL, the Calgary Flames and the Edmonton Oilers.

The lawsuit essentially claims that Andrei Taratukhin of the Flames and Alexei Mikhnov of the Oilers are under contract with Yaroslavl for the 2006-07 season and should not be allowed to play for any other club in the world.

It asked the federal court for a temporary injunction barring the two players from skating for the two NHL teams.

"Respondents should not be permitted to continue playing professional hockey in breach of their contractual obligations to KC Lokomotiv," Russian lawyer Alexander Berkovich writes in the lawsuit.

The NHL saw it coming.

"The Russian team has been threatening us and the clubs with litigation for some time," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told the Canadian Press in an e-mail.

"While I won't comment specifically on the claims the Russian team has asserted, I can say that we believe they are without legal merit and intend to defend the case vigorously."

A similar lawsuit from Metallurg Magnitogorsk will likely follow against the Pittsburgh Penguins with the Russian club also claiming it has prized rookie centre Evgeni Malkin under contract for this season.