In hockey, no means maybe.

So when Alain Vigneault says no, there isn’t a chance that playing defenceman Keith Ballard on the wing Tuesday for the third time in four games could be part of a long-term solution to the Vancouver Canucks’ lack of forward depth, he means at the moment, that’s not the plan.

But maybe it’s an idea that could grow little wispy roots in the back of the head coach’s mind -- a card to be played again, if necessary, the next time the Canucks get a case of the shorts up front, or just need a general shakeup.

Ballard, you may have heard, set up Alex Burrows’s game-winner Sunday in Denver while playing on a makeshift line centered by Andrew Ebbett.

This, at a time when the defence was already missing Alex Edler and ought to have needed all experienced blueline hands on deck.

Yet Vigneault, even sans Edler, felt he could spare Ballard from the back end and throw him on the wing, where the need was greater.

How to interpret that decision?

That the coach still doesn’t love his defensive game? That he will always be on a short leash here?

Or that it’s a compliment to his versatility?

“You never know. Maybe this is the start of 10 years as a winger,” Ballard said prior to Tuesday’s unsightly pig of a 1-0 shootout win over Columbus, in which nobody set anyone up for anything.

“I don’t know how I wouldn’t enjoy it. It’s been fun. I think the only thing you can do is just embrace it and do the best you can.”

He’s not taking it as a demotion, at least, any more than Burrows, who was re-deployed from the Sedins’ line to the No. 3 unit.

In Burrows’ case, of course, it’s more about being Vigneault’s Mr. Fix-It, a guy who can make any line better and help spread the skill and sandpaper quotient around a bit. He said he has been “super-impressed” with Ballard’s play on the wing, and his attitude.

“First thing is, I really like how he’s handled it right from the get-go: didn’t pout, didn’t think bad about it, just embraced the role, that he was going to go out and make the most of it,” Burrows said. “And that tells you all about his character.”