Hearts manager Jim Jefferies is set to search for a like-for-like replacement for Kevin Kyle after admitting the striker's injury absence has hampered his side's bid to wrap up third place in the Clydesdale Bank Premier League.
Kyle has been out since January 11 after problems diagnosing his injury and has undergone hip surgery after an earlier double hernia operation.
Jefferies admitted the striker's absence has been a blow which has contributed to Hearts' advantage in third place being cut from 15 points to eight with six games remaining, with Dundee United in hot pursuit having won seven of their last eight SPL games.
The Hearts boss may look to recruit a targetman similar to Kyle in the summer to enhance options at Tynecastle. Speaking ahead of Saturday's match at Inverness, Jefferies said: "If we had Kevin Kyle fit, along with everybody else, I think we would have had it all tied up weeks ago.
"He's been a big miss and we don't have another player like that. We might have to look at our options in the summer just in case he doesn't play every game next year."
Kyle is expected to miss the start of next season and Hearts' early Europa League fixtures, if they qualify. Jefferies added: "We're going to struggle to get him for the start of the season."