Craig Levein is hopeful of having Craig Gordon available for Scotland's Euro 2012 qualifiers against Czech Republic and Lithuania in September, but will only select the goalkeeper if he has returned to full fitness with Sunderland.
Black Cats manager Steve Bruce revealed on Tuesday that Gordon would be sidelined for up to six months after undergoing knee surgery.
Such a lay-off would keep the 28-year-old out until October, but Levein is optimistic about having him back for the key games earlier in the season at Hampden Park.
"Our goalkeeping coach, Jim Stewart, has been keeping in regular contact with Craig and while early reports suggest six months, there is a chance he could be back within four," Levein said on the Scottish Football Association's official website.
"I will stress, though, that if he has not returned to full fitness at his club then we would not take a chance on him for the double header.
"It is important that Sunderland have him back to full fitness and then we will assess his readiness to return to the international fold."
Allan McGregor has emerged as Levein's first-choice goalkeeper as Gordon has struggled with various injuries this season, and will have further opportunities to impress in the Carling Nations Cup games against Wales and Republic of Ireland in May.
However, Levein believes the return of Gordon will provide McGregor with healthy competition that can only be good for the national team.
He said: "We are fortunate to have two world-class goalkeepers and I am sure Allan will relish the challenge of Craig coming back fully fit.
"Obviously it is a big blow to Craig at what is the business end of the season but the knee problem has been troubling him for some time and he hasn't really felt 100% so it was best that he went ahead with the operation so he can return earlier next season.
"I have known Craig for a long time and he is not the type to complain but having discussed the injury with him during recent get-togethers I know that it has frustrated him.
"Simon Mignolet has kept his place in the Sunderland team in recent weeks so Craig probably felt it best to get the operation now so that he can concentrate on next season."