The on-loan Sporting Lisbon playmaker has missed the Easter Road side’s last two matches after picking up a hamstring injury in the 2-0 defeat away to Celtic a fortnight ago.
Gauld is unlikely to feature in any of Hibs’ next three matches, away to Dundee tomorrow, away to St Johnstone on Wednesday and at home to Celtic in the Scottish Cup a week on Saturday.
“I’m not sure when he’ll be back, but he’ll be another couple of weeks yet,” said Heckingbottom.
“With hamstrings, you go through a full protocol and then you’ve got to get him on the grass and assess him then. We can’t take any risks. “This is one of, if not the most, reoccurring injuries if you’re not careful, so he’ll go through the whole protocol. If there are any setbacks we would rather it was a day or two rather than a week or two. “He will be fit when he is fit. We can’t take any chances with him and he can’t take any chances himself. We need him back on the grass only when it is safe. “It is better to wait two or three days instead of rushing it and setting it back two or three weeks. Because when he is back fit we want him fit for the rest of the season.”
Gauld has seen previous loan moves turn sour as a result of managerial changes and Heckingbottom admits he has sympathy with the player as his bid to make an early impression on him has been dashed by his untimely injury.
“I’m keen to have him back because we can’t make judgements on players or assess them when they are in the treatment room,” said the head coach. “It will probably be hurting him more than it’s hurting me at the minute. As much as we want him back in the group, and want to get to work with him, it is difficult when you are an injured player at the best of times. “But, when a new manager comes in and everyone else is getting his attention and getting a chance to impress and you’re not, that’s a difficult part of being a player.”