The beginning of Brenden Kichton’s career in Charlotte didn’t go as he imagined.

Donning a Checkers sweater for the first time, Kichton took a puck to the face in the team’s first preseason tune up against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms on Sep. 29.

“It was a two-on-one against me and I slid to block the pass,” said Kichton. “I was all the way over there and the Lehigh Valley forward had nowhere to go and he decided to just rip it right in my face.”

Unfortunately, neither the type of injury nor the timing was new to Kichton.

“I knew right away that something was wrong because this was the third broken jaw of my career,” he said. “I felt this bone kind of go up and down. I was really disappointed because last year at the start of the year I shattered my finger in the first game. Honestly it’s just unlucky.”

Now a whole row of teeth short, Kichton’s focus is on returning to the game, which has been a process.

“The first two weeks I couldn’t do anything really,” he said. “For the second week some very light biking. I went out on the ice just to get back out there but I didn’t even exert myself out there. Obviously eating has been tough, I’ve lost a decent amount of weight but I’m working at putting that back on and getting to game shape.”

Kichton spent his first four pro seasons in the Winnipeg system, starring on the blue line for the St. John’s IceCaps and Manitoba Moose. Missing time early on with his new club provides a challenge for the defenseman, but he has been taking steps to easing the transition.

“I’ve just been talking with the coaches and watching the games and trying to keep my mind sharp,” said Kichton. “[Wednesday] was my first practice so it felt good to get back with the team. I didn’t feel as bad as I thought I was going to feel. It’s a stepping stone. We’ll take it from there and hopefully be ready here soon.”

Given the caliber of player Kichton is, the team isn’t worried about him sliding back in once healthy.

“Yeah he missed some of the practices but he’s going to get a good two weeks of practice now and he played that first exhibition game and he was at NHL camp,” said head coach Mike Vellucci. “So it’s not going to be foreign to him. He’s going to be familiar with it, he’s just going to be about getting into game shape.”

In the meantime, the Checkers have leaned heavily on Josh Wesley and Tyler Ganly to pick up the slack on the back end. The former has taken the everyday slot for Kichton, while the latter stepped in when Trevor Carrick was recalled to Carolina last week.

“Gans had a good game and Wes has played very well,” said Vellucci. “He’s got great stick and he’s been jumping into the play. He’s been great on the breakout. I wouldn’t say those guys are five or six or seven. On any given night they can be in our top four.”

The coaching staff knows what Kichton can bring to the table once he’s healthy – the defenseman has twice topped 40 points in a season and hasn’t recorded fewer than 20 in his career. That should provide a significant boost to what is already a dangerous blue line.

“He’s played in the league already and knows exactly what it’s like to play pro hockey. He can teach some of the younger guys,” said Vellucci. “And then another thing he brings is his power play. He’s got a great shot and he’s put up numbers. Maybe not last year because of a couple injuries but the two years before that he put up a lot of points on the power play. So I think he’ll improve our power play. Plus he’s a right-handed shot and we’re always looking for that.”

There’s still plenty of work to get to that point however, something Kichton is well aware of.

“You know what, no,” he said when asked if he would be 100 percent when he gets back into a game. “Just from experience it takes some time to get to it. The first game I’ll be ready to go but looking at the timing, getting in game shape, it’s a process. But I think it’ll work out for the best.

“You’ve got to persevere. I know I’ll be stronger for it.”