Hearts striker Steven Naismith eyes comeback this season after successful knee surgery
Steven Naismith is expected to play again this season after undergoing knee surgery, says Hearts manager Craig Levein.
The on-loan Norwich City striker returned to his parent club this week to undergo a second knee operation in five months.
Levein hopes to have the Scotland forward, 32, available for the end-of-season run-in.
"The surgery went very well," Levein said.
"I think he's quite happy with the operation and so is the surgeon.
"He expects to be back and play some matches before the end of the season."
Naismith has been in stellar form this term, scoring 16 goals in 31 games for club and country.
And while Levein admits losing a player of his calibre "does have an effect", Uche Ikpeazu's return to fitness and form has come at the right time.
The 24-year-old has started Hearts' last seven games since returning from a four-month injury lay-off.
But the forward was criticised after Tuesday night's Scottish Cup quarter-final victory over Partick Thistle, with Firhill manager Gary Caldwell saying "he goes down like my little girl in the park".
"Managers sometimes talk rubbish don't they - including myself," said Levein.
"He doesn't half get some rough treatment, everyone think it's okay to have a pop at him just because he's a big guy.
"But to be fair to him he has handled it well, I don't know if I would be quite as calm under some of the provocation he gets."
'Naismith a manager's dream' - analysis
Former Scotland striker Steven Thompson on Sportsound
Naismith's a manager's dream - an organiser and a leader who recognises things happening on the park and dictates things. And he's a big, big miss for Hearts and it will be interesting to see what he does next season.