Help on the way? Pens clear Ehrhoff for contact

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Positive development for the Pens just two days prior to their playoff opener against the Rangers — d-man Christian Ehrhoff has been cleared for contact and listed as day-to-day, per head coach Mike Johnston.

Getting Ehrhoff back in time for Thursday’s Game 1 would be a major boon. The Pens were forced to play with just five healthy defensemen at times down the stretch, thanks to a tight cap situation and injuries to Ehrhoff, Derrick Pouliot, Kris Letang and Olli Maatta. The latter two remain out while Pouliot was held out of today’s practice with an unspecified ailment.

If Ehrhoff returns, it would give the Pens a much-needed veteran presence on the back end. The 32-year-old German has 73 games of playoff experience and went to a Stanley Cup Final with Vancouver in 2011 — but he’s been plagued by concussion issues repeatedly over the last few months, bouncing in and out of the lineup.

If Ehrhoff can’t go for Game 1, the Pens will have some other options available — there are no salary cap constraints in the playoffs, so the likes of Scott Harrington and Brian Dumoulin could step in.